John Keells Foundation – the CSR entity of the John Keells Group – entered into a three-year collaboration with Ruk Rakaganno – a non-governmental organization engaged in the field of conservation and restoration of trees and forests – to re-forest 20 hectares of Suduwalipotha Forest located in Kukulagema Beat, Kalawana Range, Kalawana DS Division in Ratnapura District through Ecological Restoration. The project falls within John Keells Foundation’s focus area of Environment which commits to minimizing the impact on the environment while promoting the cause of environmental conservation and sustainability.
The project will focus on reforesting the land with indigenous trees and plants of the wet zone which can be established as a natural laboratory, providing a place for education and increasing public awareness on forest restoration and ecology with the output of 20 hectares of land to be planted with well-established native vegetation, which will grow into a forest habitat similar to (that will mimic) the adjoining wet zone natural forest, Sinharaja Forest – the largest lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka and a biodiversity hotspot that is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The project which will be funded by John Keells Foundation and implemented by Ruk Rakaganno will involve the planting of a minimum of 13,000 trees within the restored forest land during the first year commencing from 2021 and maintain the trees during the rest of the three years in accordance with an undertaking by Ruk Rakaganno to the Conservator General of Forests to increase the tree cover and productivity of forests by supporting the restoration of the identified forest land. A Baseline Ecological Assessment of the site has already been carried out by an expert team to facilitate the purchase of field equipment and plants and to commence clearing the land. A joint field visit with representatives from Ruk Rakaganno and Vimukthi Weeratunga, Biologist from Cinnamon Nature Trails also took place where relevant personnel engaged with the local community on tools and supply of plants, whilst a list of plants available at the nurseries was earmarked for the project.
This initiative is very much in line with the theme for World Environment Day 2021 – namely, “Ecosystem Restoration”. “Ecosystem restoration” means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.
“We are delighted to partner Ruk Rakaganno in this important Ecological Restoration programme”, said Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of Operations of John Keells Foundation. “In addition to serving the key objective of conserving the critical ecosystems around Sinharaja Forest, we plan to actively engage both our staff volunteers of the John Keells Group as well as surrounding communities to support project implementation and impact.”
Prior to this project, John Keells Foundation together with various John Keells Group businesses and external organizations such as Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts, Tea Smallholder Factories PLC, Carbon Consulting Company (Pvt) Ltd and Neptune Recyclers (Pvt) Ltd, has undertaken diverse projects with the aim of biodiversity conservation, wildlife conservation, paper conservation and reforestation as part of the Group’s commitment to protect and enhance our environment.
Speaking of the collaboration Dushy Perera, President of Ruk Rakaganno said, “We are equally excited to partner John Keells Foundation in this reforestation project in the vicinity of the Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Sinharaja Rain Forest. We will be reforesting this area with endemic and indigenous plant species found in the forest reserve, thus endeavouring to preserve and propagate threatened species of flora in this buffer zone. Ruk Rakaganno have worked before with the UNDP, The Presidents Fund, Ford Foundation and the National Institute of Fundamental Studies and are now honoured to be chosen by JKH as their implementing partner in this progamme of ecological restoration”.
Environment is one of the six focus areas of John Keells Foundation – the CSR entity of John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. With a history of over 150 years, John Keells Group provides employment to over 14,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for the last 15 Years by LMD Magazine. Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Participant of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow” through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, ‘Plasticcycle’, which is a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.