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They are lining up, day by day, waiting to collect their daily earnings for the harvested tea leaves. In the 19th Century tens of thousands of Tamils were recruited from India to fulfill the multiple jobs on the plantations in Sri Lanka, a massive inflow of migrant workers who were supposed to work for the British colonizers. Why recruiting labour from India? Well, in the first place the Sinhalese didn’t have quite a positive experience working for the colonizers and secondly they were too proud to work for the white people from a far-away continent who occupied their country and oppressing its population. Today when you travel through the tea estates and other plantations you will notice that the plantation Tamils colour the area with their Indian culture. They live under very poor circumstances, because the income they collect from the hard work on the estate and in the tea factories keep them on the bottom of the Sri Lankan society. Mostly they live in communities close to the estates, mainly in the upcountry, in so called line houses. With very little space they have to manage their lives. The ladies usually work as tea pickers and the men in the tea factories or are jobless. The miserable circumstances lead to situations, such as alcoholism and unfinished education.


Sri Lanka has many plantations. Most of the people, including the Indian Tamils, live in rural areas and either earn their living from farming and working at plantations or work abroad (mostly in the Middle East). Sri Lanka has a long history of plantations, going back to the colonial era. The first ones were cinnamon plantations in Colombo, but from1840 onwards, the plantation agriculture became highly profitable, especially the coffee trade, which had boosted the economy considerably. However, a serious leave disease ruined all coffee plantations in Sri Lanka and tea estates started growing rapidly in the higher elevations of the country.

The second half of the 19th Century is regarded as a period of exponential growth in the plantation agriculture. Rubber gained a prominent growth due to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the USA and in the 1890s the number of coconut plantations increased considerably. Today it is sugar cane that is going to bring a new revolution in plantation agriculture, mainly concentrated in the eastern and northern part of the country, due to the explosive global demand for ethanol.


Tourists can visit some plantations and factories, especially tea estates and tea factories. Plantation bungalows are also available for tourists as accommodation providers. Staying at one of these plantation bungalows gives you an opportunity to experience the atmosphere of the British colonial period.