I woke up early, keen and ready to go. Time for us to survey the progress on the Mannar projects!
The Rice Mill
Our first stop is Nedunkandal, to check up on the building of the rice mill. Sadly, there poured a torrential rain last night, so the site was extremely muddy. Trying to walk down to the surveying marks put in yesterday, I got stuck in mud that tried to eat my shoes. The mud was gloopy, so any attempts at trying to dig a foundation today would be meaningless, since the gloopy mud would drip to right back where it had been dug. The builders say that they need 3 days of sun after a day like this, before the ground is hard enough to build foundations. Hopefully it won’t interfere with the schedule.
After checking out the rice mill, I went to wish holiday best-wishes to the villagers who I knew, carrying a big box of Kit-Kats as Chanukka treats to give the children. I didn’t have the Chanukiya, the 9 stemmed candelabra used in Chanukka, but I did have some candles so I drew a Chanukiya in the sand, and placed the candles in the appropriate places. Singing Maoz Tzur in front of everyone was a little bit embarrassing, but I had seen so much of their culture so intimately, I shouldn’t be embarrassed about showing them mine. I was surprised, though, at the end of my prayer, the villagers echoed my prayer with an “Amen.”
The Toilet Construction Project
After visiting the rice mill, we hop over to see the toilet construction projects, which have advanced swimmingly since last time I visited. Where before, the toilets were in pieces, the walls erected, but the roof, plumbing and septic tank lid were being cast, in the sand. Now, the toilets were complete, the roofs where they should be (the cement slabs somehow hauled up by labourers) and even the painting was complete. This one was done!
We visited the beneficiary family, a woman headed household with 2 children. We sat in her house, some rain trickling through the palmyra roof, and whilst the kids played with the dogs we had some tea. Water boiled over an open flame, tea leaves, a generous pinch, from a jar and powdered milk and plenty of sugar.
Whilst we talked with the mother, and her children, we could see how excited they were to have their toilet completed, but, sitting in the temporary shelter where they are living, now for more than two years, we could also see how much work there was still to be done in the area.
The Bore Well Construction Project
We head to the next village, to check the progress of the bore wells we are constructing. The children of the village, hearing the sound of the trishaw approaching (a two-stroke “tuktuk” that is unmistakable) rush out of the home to greet us. It being Chanukkah, I am prepared, and I throw each one of them a chokky! Some of them rip the packets open and devour it right away, others sneakily save it for later. The bore well has been paved, and the fittings fitted, the children now have access to clean water!
Project update for Palmera Projects/OfERR (Ceylon) Manthai West district projects
Palmera Projects is working with OfERR (Ceylon), currently, on four livelihood projects for affected persons from the Sri Lankan Civil War: a rice mill; the construction of four deep bore wells; the construction of toilets; and, the provision of solar lanterns to facilitate study for children in temporary housing (to be discussed later)
The Nedunkandal Rice Mill
The rice-mill in Nedunkandal, (Manthai West District; Northern Province; Sri Lanka) will be run as a social business. Its impacts are as follows
- Primary effects:
- Reduction of the price of milling rice for local villagers (from extortionate above-market rates of approximately 6 SLR/kg charged by the neighboring villages monopoly, to approximately 2-3 SLR/kg
- Reduction in time taken to mill rice: instead of having to carry heavy rice (either on their backs or on a bicycle) for half a day to the next village, they will be able to mill within their village
- Increase in price for rice sold by the villagers: by being able to store their paddy, they can sell it in the off season (not at harvest time) to command a better price); by milling the rice, they are able to charge much more as well (selling the rice as a finished product rather than selling paddy)
- Employment for approximately 28 members of the Nedunkandal WRDS (Woman’s Rural Development Society)
- Secondary effects, the profits from the mill will be reinvested into the economy in one of two methods:
- The profits may be used to improve the mill, as had been done in the Trinco mill, to increase the profit potential of the facility (e.g. buying a chili grinder, a flour grinder, packaging facilities, etc.)
- The profits may be used to fund micro-finance loans to the women of the WRDS in order to facilitate income-generating activities (e.g. buying rice seeds, cloth for sewing, etc.)
The village where the rice mill is being built is called Nedunkandal, approximately 45 minutes west of Mannar by van.
At the end of the war, the area was a major battleground between the LTTE and the SLA (because of its proximity to the A32 highway), and the area and its infrastructure was severely damaged. As a result of this fighting, all of the villagers from the area were displaced to the Vanni, with most of their houses, cattle and other belongings destroyed in the war.
The villagers resettled at Nedunkandal in late 2009 only to find their livelihood and their wealth in tatters: little access to clean water, their cattle now a pile of bones, most homes destroyed.
This project seeks to build a rice mill to increase the livelihoods of the women in the village and the paddy farmers in the area.
I captured as many stories as I could on video (to be translated). Written summations are available on my blog in this article: Mannar, day 2: interviews in the field and Palmera’s other Mannar projects.
Last year, there seems to have been some issues with regards to the permits required to work on the land granted. These issues seem to have revolved around that the land used to be government land. However, my understanding of the conversation I had with Ms Sivalingam, the general council of the Mannar field office, was that these issues had resolved themselves by late November, early December 2011.
The Manthai West toilet construction project
During the Sri Lankan Civil War much of the infrastructure in the Manthai West region was destroyed. This project hopes help rebuild some of these communities by building toilet facilities – facilitating hygene and dignity for the villagers.
The villages where the toilets are being constructed are in the Pallai Kulli GN division (about 15 minutes from Nedunkandal); the toilets are mainly being constructed in and around village called Ithikandal.
This village is in very bad condition, with temporary housing being the norm, and most houses lacking any bathing/showing/clean water facilities.
One beneficiary I met, a 20 something year old mother who’s husband was still incarcerated in Colombo, was taking care of her family and her sister’s family, since her sister and her sister’s husband did not survive the conflict. This extended family is one of the beneficiaries of one of our toilet projects.
Many of the toilets have finished being built. The rest are to be completed within the next five days or so (i.e. by the 3rd of January 2012).
Manthai West bore well construction project
In the Sri Lankan Civil war, much of the infrastructure in the region was destroyed, including (importantly) wells deep enough to give access to clean drinking water. This project hopes to reconstruct these facilities to improve the health of villagers in the area.
The villages where the four wells are to be constructed are: Kannady, Parapukadanthan and Udaligadi in the Kurriville GN division in Manthai West.
The beneficiaries live in large, extended families. Many of the families are women headed.
Most bore wells are completed, some need hand pumps to be placed on top of the dug bore well.
If you have some time, check out these blog posts by my awesome mate Jeremy at Diaspora Lanka, also on development in the Mannar district:
- Mannarin Marumalarchi 2022 – let’s get the Mannar show on the road! (diasporalanka.wordpress.com)
- Donkey Count (diasporalanka.wordpress.com)