To the ‘World’s End’ and back…
Field trip number 2 done and dusted! For this second trip, as part of another Value Chain assessment exercise, we got up before dawn and together with our local NPO client, travelled for 6 hours to the spectacular Nuwara Eliya region, also knows as ‘Tea Country’ here in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya lies 2000 meters above sea level, which could explain my stubborn headache I was struggling with throughout the trip. (Although of course this could also have been the result of some serious coffee withdrawal symptoms, as I was only drinking, you guessed it right, tea. Not a coffee bean in sight for as far as the eye could see…)
The first day was packed with meetings with various stake holders of our new Value Chain to be assessed: The ‘Cut Flower’ business! By the end of this week, my general knowledge about our weird and wonderful global industries will yet again have been enriched by pre and post harvesting best practices, the average yield of a gerbera and the cost to erect a poly tunnel per square meter. I am blessed.
We met many stakeholders in the value chain from large scale vertically integrated flower growing companies to tiny farming communities hoping to start a new income stream in this business. Unfortunately, again enablement and lack of economic awareness are big hurdles for the independent farmer. Also getting access to the right funds to raise the required starting capital is proving to be very difficult if not impossible. However, that night, over a glass of the local ‘gin like’ spirit ‘Arrack’ we had a good brainstorm with our NPO on how to overcome these hurdles. By the time I went to bed I felt hopeful and it reminded me of a quote I read somewhere recently which was ‘Once you choose hope, anything is possible’. How true.
On day two, the morning was packed with meetings with local farming communities to get to grips with their situation. The fourth meeting was in a remote village high on top of a mountain. I must confess that by that time we were quite ‘saturated’ with all information that already had been readily shared with us in the previous meetings. So when we were escorted to the highest point in the village, straight to the village hall to find an ‘audience’ of possibly all inhabitants, we were, to say the least ‘taken back by their enthusiasm’. One hour later, we made it out (alive) and were all ready for some leisure time: Our hike to the ‘World’s End’!
‘‘World’s End’ is a sheer cliff with a drop of about 1,200 m (4,000 feet) in Horton Plains National Park. We asked the client to join us and they accepted which was great! We have been working so closely together over the last couple of weeks on the project but due to time pressure we have had little opportunity to get to know each other a more personal level. The walk itself was nothing short of amazing, especially because the clouds lifted for a brief moment exactly when we reached ‘World’s End’ and had the most beautiful panoramic view over the mountains and valleys in the region. (Google it for more pictures; spectacular!)
There was one catch: We still had to drive all the way back to Colombo (5 hours). By the time I was ‘home’, had a shower, and spoke to the kids it was 2am in the morning. Needless to say, I am very happy that tomorrow morning it is the weekend I can sleep in….Can’t wait….