A dream unfolds

Panchawarnam and her family

Puthukudiyriuppu is a small village in the Mannar district in the north western region of Sri Lanka. It was one of the many villages in this region that were severely affected by the war that raged in Sri Lanka for three decades. 

Unable to live under conflict conditions, Panchawarnam, a resident of this village was forced to move to India as a refugee. In 2002, Panchawarnam lost her husband, and was forced to fend for herself and her family.  When she returned to Puthukudiyriuppu in 2003 with her daughter and grandchild, she found most of her belongings, assets and property missing or damaged beyond repair. Without her husband’s support, her only means of ensuring her family’s survival was to undertake menial labour and fuel wood collection. “During the paddy harvest time I get the chance to earn enough, but its only for a short period. A laborer’s wage of Rs. 300 per day is not enough to sustain my family, plus I’m not assured of work every day.” Her average monthly income of Rs. 4000 is utilized mainly to feed her family. 

Puthukudiyriuppu was selected as a beneficiary village by the UNDP Transition Recovery Programme (TRP) due to the overall vulnerability of the village. The CIDA funded Community Reconstruction Project III (CRP III) was implemented in the village along with a number of projects based on TRP’s area based development policy. CRP III aimed at improving the food security and income generation opportunities among women through the Women’s Rural Development Society (WRDS). Of the 18 women selected under this project, five were from women headed households. 

CRP III provided Panchawarnam with one cow and material for the construction of a cattle shed. Her cow produces 2.25 litres of milk a day. Of this she sells around 1.5 litres, and keeps the rest for the family’s consumption. “I now receive an additional income of about 2000 rupees per month by selling the milk. It helps me to cover a portion of my family’s expenses and I am now able to send my daughter to a sewing class. I am also able to give nutritious milk to my family, especially to my granddaughter, who likes milk. The cow also gave birth to a calf recently, so I expect to get an additional income from it in the near future,” she says happily.  

Panchawarnam and the other beneficiaries are happy to repay 30% of the assistance they have received to the WRDS. This money will be used to provide loans to other women who need livelihood assistance. Panchawarnam has now repaid Rs. 3000 out of a total of Rs. 12,000, and has planed to complete the payment by the end of the year. 

According to the WRDS, these interventions have helped to increase the participation of members by 20%, and all the members have started to save part of their income. “Under this project UNDP has  trained members of our WRDS and taught us how to work together, to keep records, and to communicate effectively. We have learnt a lot from the training and we have now initiated a savings system through our WRDS.  I have now saved Rs.400,” says Panchawarnam proudly. 

Panchawarnam now has a steady source of income. With a new calf on the way, she is hopeful that she will be able to increase this income. Soon, her daughter will also be able to contribute to the family income by undertaking sewing orders. With this money Panchawarnam plans on sending her grandchild to school. She also hopes to begin rearing goats. Now that she is able to take care of herself and her family, Panchawarnam says she has some hope for a better future.