Susil Fernando is a growing entrepreneur in the very sense of the word. Having transformed his passion successfully into his vocation, Susil today is the owner of a plant nursery which has a collection of over 400 varieties of medicinal plants out of which majority, according to him, are endemic. From his childhood days, Susil says, he had the curiosity and willingness to explore and learn about plants – medicinal in particular.
“From a very early age, I had the passion to learn about medicinal plants. Later during my youth years, I was attached to an NGO called Janawabodha Kendraya and this is where my curiosity to learn about these plants grew even further because one of our key missions through the organization was to promote traditional medicine over Western. In the process, we planted a number of these plants used in traditional medicine in public places and this exercise inspired me to start up my own nursery,” recalled Susil.
Having started planting at a commercial level in 2008, Susil said he can look back and be really happy today about his journey so far because has planted over 1000 plants over the last 7 years.
When asked if planting for a living was profitable, he said that as much as it is monetarily rewarding, planting has also given him a deal of satisfaction that no other job he can think of would. “It is amazing to think that I am giving back something to the earth that I am making a living out of. I think planting is a habit that is fast losing its importance, as schools also don’t seem to be encouraging it anymore as much as it was done when we were children,” he said.
Further emphasizing on the importance of planting, Susil noted that the beauty about herbal and medicinal plants that he grows is that they do not require any artificial fertilizers or any sort of genetic modifications as the country’s soil is very favourable and conducive for such plants to grow.
“As a principle and policy, I don’t add anything non-organic either to the produce or to the plant in the form of fertilizer because I believe by doing so we’re doing a great damage to the soil which is fertile by itself. Like the ancient kings have said, I can say with experience that we have one of the most fertile soils in the world. This country truly is an oasis,” Susil added.
He also revealed that almost 90% of the medicinal plants required for Ayurvedic treatments today can be sourced from Negombo itself, where he is based at. Commenting on the way forward, Susil said that he wished to provide plants – specifically spices and herbs – to hotels and resorts around the country so that in years to come they can be self-sufficient in the said regard.
In terms of landscaping, he said that he aspires to influence a culture of using local and plants of medicinal value instead of imported plants such as palms. In the New Year, he said he will be getting involved in landscaping Rideedgama Children’s Park in Kurunegala.
In conclusion, he said that he hopes more people will get into the habit of planting in future while stressing that the government should do the needful in this regard to promote the practice especially among the younger generations as well as provide the necessary support to entrepreneurs like himself.
When asked what he wanted to expand and take his business to the next level, Susil said that a bigger land area for him to grow plants in would be helpful as he is right now managing with something around two perches.
Currently, Susil operates from Laksiri Osusiri, his plant nursery, at his residence in Pitipana and also the herbarium and sale at the recently re-opened Rajapaksha Park in Negombo.