ILO steps into assist vulnerable ble community in the North
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has come forward in supporting 3,725 vulnerable women and men in the Mannar, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts to earn an income as well as sustain their livelihood through several short-term relief mechanisms.
These include temporary employment in infrastructure developments related to improving irrigation for farming, clearing farm access paths, and renovating fisheries landing sites, alongside providing agriculture inputs ranging from subsidized seeds to equipment, financial assistance towards labour and land preparation, as well as strengthening market access via private sector.
As Sri Lanka experiences its worst economic crisis, close to 30% of its population are facing food insecurity, while the rising poverty rate continues to push more families below the poverty line.
“People with existing vulnerabilities are among the most impacted in any crisis. The present situation has meant that vulnerable and marginalized groups in the Northern Province; a region already burdened with higher than national average unemployment and poverty, are forced to grapple with further exacerbated challenges in carrying on their day-to-day lives.
“Especially for those engaged in the agriculture and fisheries sector, their livelihoods have been severely disrupted from all fronts,” says ILO Sri Lanka Chief Technical Advisor Dr. Thomas Kring.
The interventions; a part of ILO’s Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+) Project, are being implemented in collaboration with the Department of Agrarian Development, Department of Agriculture, District Secretariats, and Cooperatives.
Vinayagapuram Farmers’ Co-Op General Manger Murugesapillai Muralitharan, remarks about its gains: “With reduced farming activities, farmers, farmhands, daily wage earners, we’ve all lost our income. From the earnings through this initiative, individuals are able to manage household expenses, send their children to school, take care of medical needs, start a home garden, and purchase seeds as well as other requirements to continue farming.
“The maintenance work we have completed in this area will benefit our fields for the next 4-5 years; collectively working on these has also created a strong sense of community and ownership.”
Through the infrastructure development intervention two-small scale tanks were repaired, in addition to irrigation channels being deepened and cleared. Accessibility of farm paths was improved for 2028 acres of paddy field. Furthermore, four fisheries landing sites and over 40 kms of sea access pathways were also cleared.
“The impact of this cash-for-work based approach by ILO is many fold – due to the restricted Government spending in 2022, the routine maintenance undertaken by the Department was stalled.
The intervention provided a direct means of income for the most in need, including persons with disabilities and women heads of households, and simultaneously created a mechanism to complete these necessary infrastructure developments.