COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Group Michelin, in partnership with a French sustainability group and the French government, has agreed to work with the Sri Lankan government to enhance the well-being and productivity of 6,000 small rubber plantation owners in the island nation.
As part of a memorandum of understanding signed recently, the French government will fund a $725,000 project to build capacity and strengthen the economy of the smallholders.
The RIVER (rubber improvement of value chain & embedded smallholders resilience) project will be supported by co-sponsors Michelin and French sustainability consulting group Ksapa S.A.S.
The areas covered by the program include the Badalkumbura and Medagama regions in the southeastern district of Monaragala, the Sri Lankan government said.
According to Ksapa's website, the initiative will build up on previous experience with Michelin in Indonesia to improve working conditions of rubber growers.
As project lead, Ksapa is responsible for the design and management of the program supporting the smallholders in rubber cultivation.
The operational implementation of the project – the delivery of training sessions to farmers – is undertaken by Michelin's local subsidiary, Camso Loadstar.
Additionally, the RIVER project is supported by a club of partners bringing expertise in agronomy, IT development, or impact measurement.
To enhance the long-term livelihood of the rubber farmers, the project will provide education and training on rubber cultivation practices, farm diversification, and environmental footprint.
According to Ksapa, the project is aligned with the Sri Lanka rubber industry masterplan 2017-2026, which aims to increase productivity across small and large rubber production operations.
As part of the plan, the Sri Lankan government will aim to "shed age old unproductive practices"; adopt new technologies; and enhance effectiveness in managing value-chain activities.
With roughly 337,000 acres of land devoted to NR cultivation and 200,000 workers, Sri Lanka is considered the 13th largest rubber producer in the world, according to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board.