"It is such a joy to have our own permanent house with this little garden.
We grow organic vegetables and fruit for our family."

Over four hundred estate workers and their families recently moved into their new homes in the Nuwara Eliya plantation district of Sri Lanka. Each two-bedroomed house includes a living room, verandah, kitchen and toilet.

UN-Habitat with funding from the Government of India launched this community-driven, low-cost housing project to improve the living conditions of workers and their families in the Sri Lankan plantation areas. Using a people-centred approach, estate workers and their Housing Cooperative Societies drive the project's implementation. By the end of the project, UN-Habitat will have facilitated construction of 1,600 permanent units.

Previously the workers and their families lived in cramped conditions, often sharing toilet facilities with several other families.

“We are so happy to have our very own permanent house,” says Ms. K. Kohilambal, a tea plucker on the Diyagama estate married to a driver on the farm. “Now our children have space to study and can do their school work in comfort. Before, the house was cramped and there was not enough space for all the family members.”

Environmentally friendly building materials and techniques are being used in the construction of the new homes. These include the use of fair-faced blocks for walls, twin pit latrines, smoke-free chimneys and a small kitchen garden.

“It is such a joy to have our own permanent house with this little garden,” says Ms S. Indrakanthy, a young mother of four employed as a tea plucker at Diyagama estate. “We grow organic vegetables and fruit for our family,” she added. The kitchen gardens and planted trees also mitigate the environmental impact of the project.

For the construction of each 51 square meter house, the Indian High Commission contributes USD 5,250 (LKR 950,000) in four instalments. The Sri Lankan government, through the Ministry of Hill Country New Villages Infrastructure and Community Development, provides an additional USD 660 (LKR 120,000) to each beneficiary family for essential physical infrastructure facilities. UN-Habitat provides technical support for the preparation of the house type plans and Bills of Quantities. The project ensures the housing design and construction is sensitive to the sloping sites by incorporating disaster risk reduction measures and climate change adaptation measures. UN-Habitat specialists also provide technical supervision.

This project addresses the right to adequate housing and prioritizes woman headed households for assistance. Beneficiaries are now able to obtain legal land titles for their properties, in the past this was not possible for plantation communities. It also builds the capacity of men, women and youth in plantation communities to engage in key decision- making processes affecting housing construction and to ensure compliance with established construction standards.

Sri Lanka’s plantation sector is a significant contributor to the national economy. Some 244,500 families make up a total population of 966,700 workers and their dependents. Adequate shelter, improved basic services, and access to healthcare not only benefit the workers and their families, they are also key drivers of increased productivity on the plantations.