The living standard of thousands of farmer families in the North Central and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka is very low. They are living in small huts and 90% of these families do not have sanitary facilities. The fluorite level in the water in these provinces is very high and 12% of the population is suffering from renal diseases due to this. The schools in these areas do not have even the basic facilities and do not have sufficient teachers. Due to this the children do not get proper education. In some villages the sick has to walk 10 to 20 km to a health centre and the children to a school. We have selected the underprivileged villages in North Central Province for development under this project.
RURAL SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Three villages, namely Periyakulama, Katukeliyawa and Thammennakulama in the Anuradhapura District, have been selected for development under this project. The North and South of these villages border the Vauniyawa District.
There are 386 families in these three villages with a population of 1,469 of which 773 are female and 696 are male. Out of the 696 men only 73 have found employment in the forces and the rest rely on farming for their livelihood. The women are unemployed and they help their husbands in cultivation work. There are 298 children who attend school amongst whom are two undergraduate students.
The land in this area is very fertile. The people in these villages had a fairly good living standard till 1985 thanks to a fertile land and a decent harvest. Owing to terrorist activity which sprang up in 1985, the people had to give up on their farming. In 1988 terrorists killed three villagers and torched several houses in these villages, opening the path to a massive exodus. The villagers moved out from their homes and were forced to live in refugee camps. After clearing out operations conducted by the Sri Lanka Army, the villagers settled back in, and there now remains a permanent Army camp offering security to the area.
The tanks in the area have been abundant from 1985 and the villagers have no way of continuing with their farming. Crop cultivation is carried out annually in the wet season. They are without work during the rest of the year. If these tanks can be repaired they could collect water during the monsoon and carry out their farming through out the year.
The school in Thammennakulama has been shut down as a result of damage due to terrorist attacks. The relevant authorities have not taken any steps to reopen this school. The children in this village have to walk an exhausting seven kilometers to the school in Periyakulama for their education. We are in negotiation with the Department of Education to reopen this facility at least as a primary school. US$ 40,000 is needed to reconstruct the buildings with usable sanitary facilities along with electricity and water and we are seeking a donor to fund the development of this project.
The residents of Periyakulama, Katukeliyawa and Thammennakulama also suffer from a lack of medical facilities. The sick, the old and the very young alike, have to walk or go by bicycle all the way to Medawachchiya which is 22 km away from their border. A Mobile Medical Clinic and Dispensary is an urgent necessity for these villages.
The families who lost their homes due to terrorist activities are managing in small clay huts with straw roofs. They do not have even the basic facilities. There are a total of 42 families in these three villages, all of whom are badly in need of housing facilities.
We have already built ten houses for the above families with available funds. Each house has one bedroom with a sitting area and has cost US$ 1,500. Without the unprecedented community participation each house would have cost approximately US$2,000.The recipients made the bricks themselves in addition to helping out with their unskilled labour. We hope to build many more houses for these villagers according to the donations we receive.
Periyakulama which has 149 houses does not have electricity. Gaminiwewa College, the only school for all three villages, is situated in Periyakulama. This school does not have a computer lab as there is no power supply even though a high-tension electricity line runs ironically right over this village. Gaminiwewa College also does not have the basic facilities for its students. There is no water service resulting in inadequate sanitary conditions. There is a room for the library but no books are available while all lab equipment is available for the science laboratory, but no building to house it in. Karuna Trust has already built the laboratory building at a cost of US$ 10,000.
While there exists a pre-school in Thammenakulama (which is the only pre-school for all three villages), that too does not have the basic facilities. The Jephcott Charitable Trust in the UK has donated US$ 14,000 to build a pre-school in the village of Periyakulama. We are presently in need of funds to develop the existing pre-school in Thammennakulama and to build an additional one in Katukeliyawa.
The main sources of water for domestic use at these villages are the garden wells, field or tube wells. The majority of the residents (78% of the population) use the garden well, a direct result of which is why 12% of the people in this area suffer from chronic renal failure. Recent research conducted in this area shows that 8% of children under 18 years are having signs of early renal disease. We tested the water in a hundred selected wells and found that the average fluoride level in the well-water is 1.8%, whereas the normal level should be between 0.5 and 0.8%, proving that it is not suitable for consumption, especially for children under the age of six years.
There are three major medically proven reasons for renal diseases:
1. A high fluoride level in the water.
We have started a project to supply each house with a fluoride filter along with a set of clay pots and educate the people on how to take precautions in preventing early renal disease. Such a fluoride filter will cost around US$ 20 and a set of clay pots US$ 10. The average cost to fill the filters with brick pieces, transportation, distribution and seminars is estimated to cost US$ 10 per family. There are 386 families in all three villages and the total cost of the project is US$ 15,440. This should be considered a priority project as the health of these villagers is of utmost importance. We have already distributed 100 fluorite filters to the families with children under six years.
Out of the 386 families in this area 243 do not have access to proper sanitary facilities. The estimated cost for a basic toilet is US$ 200.
We are carrying out the Periyankulama Project with the assistance of the District Secretary of Anuradhapura and the Divisional Secretary of Medawachchiya with the Village Officer of Periyakulama monitoring the progress of the work being done.
Home for the homeless
26 new homes built for the homeless including 16 new houses in Madawachchiya divisional secretary area and other parts of Sri Lanka such as Mihintale, Rambukka, Thelijjawila. Read More
Flood Relief donations handed over in affected areas including Galenbinduniwewa and Mathugama. Read More
Few general donations
Restoration of Kasamaduwa Tank
Achieving food security for under-privileged rural communities has been one of the highest priorities for Sri Lanka during last several decades. Majority of the farm lands in Sri Lanka are located in dry zone and hence depend on rain water. Also occurrences of severe droughts have increased in frequency in recent past. During such periods there is acute water shortage for agriculture, drinking and other household purposes. Restoration of the old tank network that existed in Sri Lanka has been identified as one key enabler towards addressing these issues. This will increase the rainwater storage capacity for both agriculture and household use. Karuna Trust is planning to initiate a community based pilot project to restore a tank in a small farming village called Kasamaduwa, in Anuradhapura district.
About the Issue
Ancient Sri Lanka was known as a kingdom of tanks where an agriculture based society thrived.
There are thousands of ancient irrigation tanks scattered across the county. The village tank was an integral element of the community with many uses. According to the agro-based ancient culture, the tanks fell into three categories – the smallest was the Gaamika wewa, which served a single village. The medium was the Daana wewa which catered to several villages while the largest was the Maha wewa which covered a large area known as a Koralaya - a division of a province. Organic farming techniques were standard practice in this society with little environmental impact.
However, presently, only a small fraction of the entire tank network can be utilized due to various forms of degradation that has occurred over the centuries. Over a long period, successive governments have restored many large tanks and distribution canals. As a result the bigger tanks are in a reasonably good condition. However, the small village level tanks have not received the same level of attention as the bigger tanks. The issue is partly due the vast number of scattered village level tanks. Some tanks are totally abandoned while some are still functional but with a significantly lower storage capacity. The most common issue seems to be the silting of the tanks over long periods.
Karuna Trust is planning to initiate a pilot project to restore a small village level tank with community participation. With help from the Mihinthale divisional secretariat in Anuradhapura district, we have identified a farming community in Kasamaduwa to launch this project. The village tank there has been silted and the capacity has therefore, been reduced. Restoration will be carried out according to local authority guidelines.
- Location: Kasamaduwa, Mihinthale, in Anuradhapura district.
- Grama sevaka division: 568
- Name of the tank: Marasinghe Vewa.
- Farming area currently fed by the tank: 364 Acres
- Estimated increase in farming area after restoration: 42 Acres
- Typically rice farming is done in two seasons (“Yala” and “Maha”). However, lower rainfall in one season coupled with reduced capacity of the tank has significantly limited farmer’s ability to carry out farming in both seasons. However with increased capacity it is expected that more farmers can cultivate both seasons using the water from this tank. Estimated increase in total yearly farming output: 122%
- Currently there are 84 families using this tank for their farming and household use. With the restoration work, it is estimated that another 20 farming families can be settled in this area.
- In some years, due to severe drought, the farmers are unable to produce any farming output at all. They face severe hardships during such years. With the restoration it is expected that they will be able to cultivate at least a single season during such severe drought periods.
- Major portion of the labor needed to restore the tank will be provided by the community for which they will be paid. The materials and machinery will be obtained under the supervision of the divisional secretariat and village committee.
- Project monitoring by project officers attached to Mihinthale divisional secretariat and by Karuna Trust.
- Increased yearly farming output from the village.
- Mitigates the impact of severe droughts.
- Increased income for farming families by enabling a second season for cultivation.
- Increased storage capacity of rain water as a source for safe drinking water. Most ground water sources (like tube wells and dug wells) in dry zone are suspected to be contaminated and causing a mysterious kidney decease in a significant percentage of the farming population. There is evidence that people around the bigger towns like Anuradhapura which get water from bigger tanks with some basic treatment, are not affected by this kidney decease. If there is enough rainwater storage capacity at village level, low cost mini treatment facilities can be enabled in future to provide safe drinking water to the villages.
- Community participation results in a sense of ownership and responsibility to protect the common resources available to the village.
- Allows more families to settle down in this village and perform farming activities for a living.