Rebuilding fishermen’s livelihoods in Mullaitivu District

Thanks to the new ice plant, fishermen can store and transport their catch in better conditions

Fishermen in Mullaitivu District, Northern Sri Lanka, have been living off the sea for decades. However, years of conflict and displacement have disrupted their livelihoods and caused large scale damage to the economic and social infrastructure.


  • The project helped 7,000 fishermen displaced by the conflict to rebuild their livelihood and increase their income.
  • The $3.5 million project is part of a larger socio-economic recovery programme for conflict-affected populations in the North and East.

Anuraj, a father of three, was displaced four times with his family since the 90’s. “I could not store the fish I caught properly and received low prices at the market.  I had to find casual labor or borrow money to make ends meet,” he says.

In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) identified crisis-affected and vulnerable communities and conducted a study to facilitate their socio-economic recovery and resettlement.

In Mullaitivu, UNDP stepped in with financial support from the European Union, to help fisheries cooperatives establish an ice plant and enable fishermen to store their catch so as to fetch a good price for it in the market.

The ice plant produces 10 tons of ice per day, allowing fishermen to store 12,000 kg of fish and ensuring that their catch is in a good condition for a long time. Seven thousand fishermen in the district now have more bargaining power and witnessed a significant increase in their income.   “I have no problem in storing my catch now. Ice is available throughout the day, even in the night hours. I am not only fishing but also involved in transporting fish to other districts using the ice,” says Anuraj.

Three new fisheries cooperatives were formed, bringing an additional 960 fishermen into the network.

The cooperatives now plan to buy additional cooler trucks and invest in dry fish making to further improve marketing opportunities for their members and create employment for women.

With funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), UNDP will work with the cooperatives to develop a business plan and strengthen their management and production capacities in order to be able to access into high-value markets on fair and equitable terms.  

“The establishment of this ice plant is the first and the foremost step for the resettled people to develop the fishing industry in Mullaitivu,” says A Patthinathan, a former Government agent involved in the planning.

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