ILO’s LEED+ expands private sector partnerships with Ceylon Biscuits and Alli Foods

 

ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Director Simrin Singh CBL Corporate Services Director Agribusiness Development Dr. Rukshan Alli Company Managing Director Illeen Riluwan

• Initiative aimed at supporting livelihoods and strengthening supply-chains during COVID-19

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+) project entered into partnerships with CBL and Alli Foods, as part of its strategy to stimulate economic growth in the North through Market Systems Development approach.

The partnerships are a timely response to not only COVID-19’s disruption of global and local supply chains, but also to the Government of Sri Lanka’s focus on promoting national production of certain agricultural crops towards achieving self-sufficiency.

In fast moving economies, private sector companies would aggressively pursue entry to find new markets (whether as buyers or suppliers) but this is not the case for lagging regions in the North. The absence of required skills, market information, as well as affordable financing options for local producers and business, continues to characterise ventures in the north as being high-risk, thereby inhibiting investment by large national players. However, LEED+ interventions as support to private sector through shared risks helps companies address these gaps in a commercially viable manner, resulting in a win-win proposition that benefits both businesses and local communities.

The project’s sectoral approach as an entry point to develop the local economy currently focuses on agriculture and fisheries. With engagement in three value-chains, namely groundnut, coconut husk, and sea cucumber, LEED+ has already established several successful partnerships with private sector companies – David Gram, Gui-Lan, Hayleys, and Tropicoir Lanka.

The project’s latest partnerships with CBL and Alli explore two new value chains, maize and black gram respectively. Findings from a comprehensive study commissioned by LEED+ indicate that both crops have significant potential to generate employment and income for local communities, particularly for women.

Speaking on the new partnership, CBL Corporate Services Ltd. Director Agribusiness Development Dr. Rukshan Gunatilaka stated: “It is our privilege to partner with the ILO in this initiative to improve livelihoods and create stability for farmers in the Northern Province. Providing these regional farmers with the support and intervention of the private sector and the global expertise of the ILO will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s food supply chain, it will also increase economic contribution from agriculture in the North and support CBL to continuously purchase high quality locally grown agricultural produce.”

“With imports of agricultural raw materials being discouraged and disruption of supply chains due to COVID-19 posing threats to our sourcing of the same, this partnership brings in the right solution. The proposed business model creates opportunities wherein both the company and the farmers will benefit in a continuous manner. Directly connecting farmer societies to the company, it also eliminates exploitation by middlemen, encouraging farmers further to cultivate this crop, yielding higher volumes and fair prices. The knowledge transfer provided to farmers is by far the greatest resource for the development of this commodity in the Northern region and for the standard of living of the families involved,” said Alli Company Ltd. Managing Director Illeen Riluwan.

Speaking on the LEED+ approach to engaging with private sector, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Director Simrin Singh stated, “The focus on Market Systems Development delivers both short-term wins, and more importantly, long-term solutions. It creates links between producers in the North and private sector, ensuring that the jobs and livelihoods created are sustainable. By creating an eco-system of necessary support services, knowledge inputs, and market linkages, these decent work opportunities can continue even after ILO support is no longer in the equation.”

Facilitating and building opportunities that connect businesses to communities, the LEED+ partnerships are rooted in sharing the gains of growth across the board, and building bridges that that ultimately help everyone move forward.

Supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Government of Norway, the LEED+ project is part of the ILO’s global Jobs for Peace and Resilience program. At its very core, LEED+ is a quintessential ILO effort, given its ultimate aim of creating decent, inclusive and sustainable jobs, and ensuring the empowerment of conflict-affected communities in the process.

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