Rigithene: Uplifting a village

Engineers at work on the irrigation channel

Large fields greeted us upon arrival at Rigithene, a small village about 37 km away from Batticaloa Town in the Eastern Province. At the very end of the field were cement bags, some machinery and a pile of stones, signaling a busy day ahead for the engineers at work on the irrigation channel. Once this irrigation channel is complete, the villagers don’t have to wait for the rain anymore.  

Although, these fields are usually ripe during the yala (rainy) season, only a part of it is suited for cultivation during the maha (dry) season. With water seeped into the soil, the farm plots at the tail-end of the field do not have access to adequate water, during the dry seasons, causing severe hardships to farmers who cultivate there.

Having identified this need, the Transition Recovery Programme (TRP) of UNDP initiated the construction of a 2.69 km concrete channel under its Japan Livelihood Development Project (Japan LDP) to provide improved access to water for farmers, thereby ensuring greater yield and income. The channel will also ensure that a larger extent of land is cultivated during the dry season as well as in the rainy season. Work on the irrigation channel commenced in October 2010 and was completed in July 2011. Funded by the Government of Japan, the total cost of the project is USD 195,407. The channel is expected to benefit over 3,400 persons.

Expressing his thoughts on the irrigation channel, a member of the Farmer Organization stated, “We faced a lot of problems in farming and distribution. Our production was not enough to meet demand. We looked at several ways to address these problems. The farmers are now happy about this concrete channel. The entire community will be satisfied in the next season.” With the construction of the irrigation channel, water loss has also been reduced, he added.

The construction of the irrigation channel is one of the many projects implemented by UNDP in Rigithene. Situated in the Koralaipattu Central DS Division, the people of Rigithene, who were displaced during the conflict, were resettled in the village in 2008. Following a needs assessment completed in the village, several projects were initiated over the past few years in order to uplift the villagers through increased income and access to basic facilities, such as water. Many of these projects are now nearing completion.

In addition to the irrigation channel, three common wells will also be constructed in the village. The wells will help provide better access to water for domestic purposes as well as for other income generating activities such as home gardening. The construction of an 810m long DBST road complete with drainage structures and the re-establishment of the abandoned community farm are also underway, further uplifting the lives of villagers.

The revolving loan scheme initiated by UNDP through the Women’s Rural Development Society (WRDS) in Rigithene, provided new opportunities for women in the village, enabling them to establish their own enterprises and also increase family income. UNDP granted Rs. 400,000 towards the revolving loan. Loans, ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 20,000, were initially given to 38 women, and expanded to 40 women upon repayment. Currently, the WRDS boasts of a capital of Rs. 1 million. Following an exposure visit to Puttalam, there was an increase in the number of women accessing the revolving loan.

M. B. Awuwamma, President, WRDS, who had initially received a loan of Rs. 10,000, said, “I was engaged in hopper-making, which was done with rice-powder made by hand. However, I applied for a loan, and got a grinding machine. Through this I was able to receive an increased income. I paid back my loan and applied for a second loan. With this money, I started brick-making. Now, I had enough money for pay for my children to go to school, to pay for their education.”

Ramisa, Secretary of WRDS Rigithene, recalled how the exposure visit organized by UNDP was instrumental in helping women realize their potential and ability to improve family income. “We visited a sustainable organic farm in Puttalam. The farm was headed by a female. We also saw a home gardening initiative, which was started by one woman, who had gone on to hire 50 villagers,” she explained, adding, “We wondered how they did this. There were so many examples of where female members have taken the lead role. We realized we could do this as well, we understood that women can contribute in many ways towards the family income.” Ramisa went on to add that the women then began looking at various paths to increase income such as establishing home gardens.

Just opposite where we stand speaking to these women, is a school building, Igraha Vidyalayam, Rigithene.  On the outer walls of the school, is an array of paintings, a blend of vibrant shades, drawn by the students themselves. The paintings depict everyday events, as well as the creativity of the students.

Neelam Mohamed, Principal of this school, the Igraha Vidyalayam, Rigithene, is proud of the accomplishments of his students. The school received assistance under TRP’s Communities for Peace project. Since then, regular attendance at the school has also increased, he explained. The school has brought together students of different ethnicities living in the vicinity. It was helped promote strong relationships between the various communities.
UNDP also provided sports equipment for the students, he stated, adding that this opened new doors for the students. “Our students were able to participate at the district and provincial level sport meets. Even though our school is a village level school, the students were able to compete with city schools,” Mr. Mohamed said proudly.

Yet another concern that needed to be addressed was the need for a pre-school building. “UNDP provided support in renovating the pre-school building in our village. Pre-school is an important element. Once the condition improves, this will be remarkable for the children and villagers in the area,” said Mr. Mohamed.

With evening drawing closer, it was time for us to head towards Batticaloa. Waving us goodbye, the villagers, once again expressed hope and joy as they looked towards their futures.

Highlights

  • The construction of the 2.69 km concrete channel is expected to provide improved access to water for farmers, thereby ensuring greater yield and income
  • The revolving loan scheme initiated by UNDP through the Women’s Rural Development Society (WRDS) in Rigithene, provided new opportunities for women in the village, enabling them to establish their own enterprises and also increase family income. The WRDS now boasts of a capital of Rs. 1 million

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