Director, Community Development Centre Aranayake
Our ancestors laboured their lands with an understanding and respect for the earth and fed their families with healthy organic produce like yams
I am a firm believer of the Universal Power. The more you give, the more you get in return - this is something that echoes in the life of Merrill J. Fernando. The MJF Foundation’s Small Entrepreneur Programme has been supporting our initiatives that promote the empowerment of women in agriculture. Through the Yam Project, we work together to generate more awareness, interest and spur the growth and development of our country’s native yams that are on the verge of disappearing from our diets.
As an author and agriculturalist with more than 20 years of experiences as a Social Assistant and a Field Research Officer, I spent years delving into the dietary cultures and farming practices of some of the oldest members in my village and accumulated a wealth of knowledge that could be passed on for future generations. In 2016, we teamed up with the MJF Foundation to help around 50 farmers from impoverished villages to revive their Yam cultivations. They identified the challenges they were facing and made efforts into setting up fences to ward off the threats caused by wild animals and provided us with seed yams.
Sri Lanka was once a self-sustained country that was abounding with a rich variety of fruits, legumes, yams and greens. Our ancestors laboured their lands with an understanding and respect for the earth and fed their families with healthy organic produce like yams. My purpose is to bring that era back and reintroduce yams & other native food produce into our local cuisine and culinary mainstream. In this process, we get to uplift the lives of women farmers in this area who have the vision, motivation and ambition to work towards their goals. They are resilient to the troubles around but they hardly give up. Thanks to Dilmah’s MJF Foundation, we learn, improve and have been able to find a value for our products through popup sales and markets.
Our ancestors laboured their lands with an understanding and respect for the earth and fed their families with healthy organic produce