August 2018, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. UN-Habitat is actively promoting a green environment in the plantation settlements where new houses are being constructed through the Indian Housing Project (IHP-CUP). In collaboration with community members and the Department of Agriculture, UN-Habitat has implemented a special environment programme to promote a number of greening initiatives including organic home gardening and “bio-fencing”. This programme commenced in 2017 with the dual objectives of improving household nutrition of families through the cultivation of organic fresh f
ruit and vegetables, while ensuring a safe, disaster resilient environment for all residents through improved green cover in the new settlements.
From 2016, UN-Habitat has facilitated the construction of houses in selected estates in the Nuwara Eliya District for plantation workers who are currently living in line rooms. At the outset, when land plots were allocated by the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) for housing construction, it was observed that much of the existing green cover and vegetation including tea bushes, trees and plants had been removed from the sites, resulting in a barren landscape. The lack of vegetation also posed serious threats to residents from natural disasters such as landslides and flooding as the exposed top soil can be easily washed away during heavy rains.
In order to improve this situation, UN-Habitat introduced several eco-friendly “greening” measures in all housing construction sites. Bio-fencing was one of the first activities undertaken in the new settlements to allocate land plots for each beneficiary family and to demarcate individual plot boundaries. Following awareness programmes and discussions, families agreed to construct live “bio” fences with trees and shrubs around their land plots instead of the traditional brick or concrete block walls. The live fences were established by planting trees such as Gliricidia, Golden Euonymus shrubs and Local “Davana” plants along the boundaries. In addition to demarcating the plots in an eco-friendly manner, live fencing also protects the top soil from heavy rains and helps to stabilize the steep slopes in the settlements.
To promote organic home gardening, UN-Habitat partnered with the Department of Agriculture in Nuwara Eliya. Beneficiary families were trained by the Department officers and resource persons on key aspects of organic home gardening including land preparation, pest and disease control, composting and nursery preparation, seed propagation and harvesting. Since the excessive use of fertiliser is a common practice in the central hills, special attention was given to raising awareness on the benefits of organic farming without using pesticides and chemicals. A variety of plants and seeds were then distributed to the beneficiaries. These included fruit plants such as lemon, banana, pomegranate, guava, passion fruit and strawberry and vegetable seeds such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce, beetroot and radish. The beneficiaries were also provided training on how to produce their own compost.
These focused eco-friendly initiatives have successfully contributed towards reducing soil erosion, while enhancing nutrition levels of the families and providing an additional household income in the new plantation settlements. In addition to providing fruits and vegetables for household consumption, the home gardens are aesthetically pleasing and are contributing towards a green and pleasant environment in the new settlements.