A “triple win” for individuals, households and community: Palm Producers’ Cooperative Pandaitharippu


The General Manager of the Palm Producers’ Cooperative explaining the benefits of the project to Mr. Ajay Chhibber during the project visit

In 2011, UNDP, under its Transition Recovery Programme undertook a market and producer assessment of the Pandaitharippu Palm Producers’ Cooperative. The assessment found that although there was a demand for palmyrah-based products, the Cooperative had limitations in accessing many of the high-value markets due to the lack of adherence to quality standards.

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  • Strengthened production processes, value-addition and improved marketing capacities of members of the Pandaitharippu Palm Producers’ Co-operative has helped empower individuals and the community economically, socially and politically.
  • The value addition of sweet toddy has also reduced the production and sale of alcohol (fresh toddy) from 97,550 liters in July last year to 77,383 liters in July this year.
  • Additional employment opportunities have also been created targeting women and youth. Membership has increased by 30% with 75 new members joining the Cooperative this year and becoming suppliers.
  • The Co-operative forecasts its production to increase by 50% over the next three years (2013-2015).

The palmyrah toddy tappers in the Pandaitharippu Grama Niladhari (GN) Division, located in Sandilipay DS Division, in Jaffna District in Northern Sri Lanka, have been marginalised because of the negative factors linked to the alcohol trade. Fresh toddy tapping is their main source of income, making many people in the village dependent on a single source of income for many years. Today, these toddy tappers’ conditions are undergoing a transformational change. As members of the Pandaitharippu Palm Producers’ Co-operative, they see enhanced opportunities in sweet toddy production as a result of strengthened production processes, value-addition and marketing capacities of its members.

While toddy processing and marketing remain the main sources of income for them, visitors to the Cooperative are greeted by an array of palmyrah-based products, such as jaggery and palm-sugar. The individual producers, toddy tapping households and the entire community have been empowered in many ways – economically, socially and politically.

Individuals have more disposable income that they can use to improve their wellbeing as well as that of their families. As a community, they are better able to control and make decisions that safeguard their business interests. Members have some access to social security through a series of schemes that have been introduced that offer pensions, education contributions, scholarships and social infrastructure support.

During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ajay Chhibber, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, had the opportunity to meet with the members of the Pandaitharippu Palm Producers’ Co-operative and listen to their success story. Following discussions with them, Mr. Chhibber recognized this as a “triple win” for the community, having social, economic and community benefits. Moreover, he said, “We were happy to have been able to support your ideas.”

The General Manager of the Cooperative was quick to explain how far they’ve come. Through UNDP’s work under the Rebuilding Agriculture Livelihoods Project (RALP) with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), not only has the Cooperative increased production of palm sugar and jaggery, but has been able to access high-value markets (through private sector linkages). Today, their products are sold at popular supermarkets, including Cargills and Sidha medical practitioners. The value addition of sweet toddy has also reduced the production and sale of alcohol (fresh toddy) from 97,550 liters in July last year to 77,383 liters in July this year. Additional employment opportunities have also been created targeting women and youth. Membership has increased by 30% with 75 new members joining the Cooperative this year and becoming suppliers. The Cooperative today has 250 active members who supply sweet toddy on a regular basis. Moreover, he says, this support has helped empower the individuals and the community in Pandaitharippu.

UNDP also provided assistance for the construction of a production and processing centre and the provision of equipment for value-addition and packing as per the business plan, and steps were taken to link the Palm Producers’ Cooperative with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) with a view to obtaining certification for products. “This was crucial for expanding the marketing opportunities for our products,” explains the General Manager.

This is a welcome relief. “Earlier, we faced a lot of problems due to some villagers consuming alcohol. There was also domestic violence. Yet today, this has changed. There has been an increase in income as well as job opportunities within our society. This steady disposable income means that we can invest better in our children’s education,” said one of the members.

The General Manager of the Co-operative is optimistic about the future. The Co-operative forecasts its production to increase by 50% over the next three years (2013-2015). The members are keen to build on the successes they have achieved so far. And with better knowledge of production, markets and competition, they are confident of meeting the challenges.