ILO says Northern farmers, fishers most affected
4 months ago
- Support over 3,700 in North with short-term employment while 1,000 youth to also be supported with learning/employability
International Labour Organisation (ILO) Sri Lanka Chief Technical Advisor Dr. Thomas Kring said that the livelihoods of especially those engaged in the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the North have been severely disrupted on all fronts.
The ILO is supporting 3,725 vulnerable women and men in the Mannar, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, and Mullaitivu Districts to earn an income and sustain their livelihoods through several short-term relief mechanisms, which include temporary employment in infrastructure developments related to improving irrigation for farming, clearing farm access paths, and renovating fisheries landing sites. The ILO is also providing agricultural inputs ranging from subsidised seeds to equipment, financial assistance towards labour and land preparation, and strengthening market access via the private sector. Through the infrastructure development intervention, two small-scale tanks were repaired and irrigation channels were deepened and cleared. The accessibility of farm paths was improved for 2,028 acres of paddy fields, while four fisheries landing sites and over 40 km of sea access pathways were also cleared.
“People with existing vulnerabilities are among the most impacted in any crisis. The present situation has meant that vulnerable and marginalised groups in the Northern Province – a region already burdened higher than the national average in terms of unemployment and poverty – are forced to grapple with further exacerbated challenges in carrying on their day-to-day lives,” said Dr. Kring.
The interventions, which are a part of ILO’s Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED Plus) Project, are being implemented in collaboration with the Departments of Agrarian Development, and Agriculture, the relevant District Secretariats, and Cooperatives.
Vinayagapuram Farmers’ Coop General Manager Murugesapillai Muralitharan noted: “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 and other requirements to continue farming. The maintenance work we have completed in this area will benefit our fields for the next four to five years, while collectively working on these has also created a strong sense of community and ownership.”
“The impact of this cash-for-work-based approach by the ILO is manifold. Due to restricted Government spending last year (2022), the routine maintenance work undertaken by the Agrarian Department was stalled. The intervention provided a direct means of income for the most in need, including persons with disabilities and female heads of households, and simultaneously created a mechanism to complete these necessary infrastructure developments. This, in turn, ensures that farmers can continue their agricultural activities in the next season,” noted the Department’s Assistant Commissioner Rajaratnam Paraniharan.
Anbupuram Fishermen’s Coop Treasurer Amir Logadevi highlighted that the livelihoods of females engaged in dry fish production, repairing nets, and those employed in seafood processing factories, rely on fisheries. “When the boats don’t go out to sea, us females have no way to earn a living. Many are already resorting to negative coping strategies such as borrowing money at high interest rates, selling assets, resorting to consuming only one meal a day, and engaging in hazardous work, just to meet basic needs. Through this initiative, they were able to alleviate hardships to a certain extent.”
Expanding the scope of assistance, LEED+ will roll out support for 1,000 youth to gain recognition for prior learning and for strengthening their employability while support will be provided to 600 maize and groundnut farmers.