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Madagalathura, Sabaragamuwa Province

The Farmer Who Is Keeping The Forest Standing In Sri Lanka

I recall my last day in Sri Lanka before flying back to Accra. I was staying in Galle for the night, which is about 3 hours down south from the farm in Madagalathura. It was raining the entire night and I had woken up to the sounds of tempestuous thunderstorms. It was 5 am and I felt the urge to visit the farm one last time before leaving. Doubtful if I was making the right decision, as I had to reach Colombo for my flight that same evening at 6 pm. I rang up Mr Kumara, the farmer, to ask him if it was raining in his village too & if I could visit him. My call went unanswered. I had to leave immediately if I were to make it to the farm and then on time to the airport which was another 3 hours away from the farm. If I were to wait for him to return my call or wait for the rains to subside, I wouldn’t have made it to the farm. I left the hotel in Galle at 6:30 am with prayers in my mind and with a very hazy Plan B.

A RAINBOW ~ A SIGN OF HOPE

A few kilometres after, I saw a rainbow, with some hope I carried on with the journey. Another few kilometres after, there was only sunshine and more hope. The driver too eased out a little bit and switched on the radio. The risk paid off. I made it to the farm, on time ~ Mr Kumara came to pick me up at 9:30 am, from the junction up to which my car could reach. I spent 3 hours at the farm before leaving for the airport at 1 pm. EXACTLY AS PLANNED! Tell me, what in life goes as per plan?

A SIGHT TO BEHOLD

As you enter Mr Kumara’s farm, you will see True Cinnamon trees shining bright along the slopes of the mountain which then merges with government-owned forest land till as far as the eyes can see. He was confused to see me, as I had already said my goodbye a day before. He asked me how much time do we have so we could go for a quick hike, see more cinnamon trees along the way. I jumped on the idea to see more of the farm and its surroundings, and learn. That also meant I would get to pick his brain as we walk up to the mountain.

What I saw along the route and as we reached the spot that he wanted me to see, was magical! I touched wood, yet again, for making the right choice of partnering with Mr Kumara. We crossed streams running across the surrounds of his land that gushed though the rocks, we stopped by the stream to drink the purest form of water with the help of a leaf that had fallen on the ground, we hiked up the mountainous slopes that were filled with cinnamon leaves from the morning’s harvest & met a few workers along the way who were clearing up the land for planting new cinnamon babies.

Fresh Water Running Through The Forest Floor

The Magnificent Ecosystem

Artisanally Crafted Quills

As with the norm with natural farming practices, the yield is much lower than those in conventional farms

When I asked Mr Kumara, he tells me this:

“I am able to export all the cinnamon that I currently grow, I have a family of 3, I own 2 cars and I have the most loyal & hard working skilled artisans who peel the cinnamon with great care. I am happy with what I have. Chasing yields & profits at the cost of destroying Mother Earth is not worth the time. I am a 4th generation farmer & if I were to feed the soil with chemicals, I am afraid that my children will not be able to carry forward our family legacy.”

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