TEA PICKING (SRI LANKA)
Large fields are needed to grow tea in Sri Lanka. Those fields used to originally be forest areas but now they are converted to tea plantations. Those plantations are not as effective as a forest, but still provide 30-50% of a forests' capacity, lasting for more than 50 years.
A huge issue in these rural villages, is local labor due to migration. Even when locals stay in the village, they don't want to engage in manual field work, which together with the rubber industry, affects negatively the tea plucking activity. Additionally, the growth of greenhouse gas generating industries only worsens the situation. There's a new trend of removing both tea, rubber, plant palm trees. From our ethnographic research and interviews with locals, we discovered that those trends might cause serious environmental issues and that the locals are in need of sustainable technologies to protect the tea industry. We expect these industry and environmental figures to change in the future, as there is a increasingly high scarcity of labor (both skilled and unskilled) and high demand for Ceylon tea. Hence, this research has overall, a high value for the scope of the local communities.
Tea plucking is the main focus of research and development. We intent to develop a mechanical way of adding fertilizer to tea trees. The quality of ground water needs to also be considered as well as new ways to extract it. Ground water effect of different plantation need to be studied in conjunction. We may need to find a way to adding fertilizer without disturbing the ground too much. The Hub will research if and how tea plantations affect landsides.
For an acre of tea plucking an average 5 people is needed and one can pluck 80-40 kg per day. So, the average production will be 150-220 kg per one go. The labor cost is about Rs. 2,000 per day. This normally varies based on how much they pluck. Locals can pluck maximum of 4 times per month. So, for an acre, the cost per month will be roughly Rs.40,000 (480,000 Rs. /year). A normal kilo of wet tea will be Rs. 98.00 and 3-4 leaves are usually plucked and sold together. Additionally, if the tea leaves can be separated (say 1st an 2nd, 3rd and 4th) then the top two can be sell at a rate of Rs. 150-200 while the next to at Rs. 80-90.