Amid Sri Lankan economic crisis, the issue of undernutrition has taken a front seat in Sri Lanka. At the heart of Abbotsleigh Estate of Hatton Plantations PLC, this silent struggle of undernourishment unfolds within its community. Undernourishment extends far beyond individual health concerns. It impacts the productivity, efficiency, and ultimately impacting the socio-economic fabric of communities. Families bear the brunt of this burden as they face the challenges of providing adequate nutrition in the face of limited resources.

In the midst of this adversity, Ms. Raju Maheswary finds comfort and purpose in a transformative project that promises to enhance nutrition for her and her family. The seeds of ‘mushroom project’ were sown by the visionary proposal of Mr. S. Ravichandran during the Gender Leadership School (GLS) in 2022. The subsequent discussions led to the allocation of a plot of land by the estate management as part of Fairtrade GLS mini mushroom project.

Oyster mushroom cultivation emerged as the center piece of this endeavour as it offers a sustainable solution to produce protein-rich sustenance from agricultural waste without the need for composting. Beyond its nutritional value, oyster mushrooms boast medicinal properties, making them a valuable addition to diets, particularly for those with dietary restrictions and health concerns. The journey began with the preparation of the site for 500 mushroom pots in December 2022. As mushroom-infused meals became a staple, Ms. Maheswary witnessed a transformation in the children’s health that mirrors the growth of the mushrooms. Initially, all the children at the Child Development Centre were underweight when she started volunteering. However, after implementing this project by providing mushroom in the meals, a gradual improvement in their weight has been observed. It also assisted workers in meeting their daily nutritional needs. As part of the core team, she looks after the ground maintenance, packaging, selling to creches and workers community and keeping records. Hence, Ms. Maheswary’s role as Assistant to the Child Development Officer at the Creche fuels her purposeful commitment to improving the health and well-being of the children and workers through sustainable solutions.

Simultaneously, the project extended its reach beyond the estate by providing packaged mushroom products at affordable rates through the cooperative shop. The cultivation of oyster mushrooms has proven to be a lucrative business that yield favourable returns in the market. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, mushroom cultivation emerged as a beacon of resilience and unity, bridging the gaps of nutrition in times of need. Through initiatives like these, communities of Abbotsleigh Estate navigate the challenges of undernutrition with determination, solidarity, and hope for a brighter, healthier future.

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