12 / 1993
Project Officer - IRED’s Asset
The success of NGOs is the relevance of the aid and resources given to the project. Even more so is the selection of the right personnel to help implement these schemes.
An absolute winner is the young project officer Podiratne Dissanayake who supervises the operation of small scale prawn farms in two villages in the Puttalam District in the West Coast of Sri Lanka.
His success is easy to understand because of his background and interests. For several years he worked in a local NGO helping preschool children in the coastal belt doing social service for fisheries families and later joined a private firm as the Manager of its prawn farm. Through patient trial and experience he learnt every stage of this highly commercialised venture. One priceless advantage he learnt was the importance of attention to the smallest detail. When IRED/PRDA initiated small scale prawn farms Podiratne saw that uneducated lagoon fishermen did not realise the value of precise operation. Digging helf acre ponds keeping them empty for five days filling them with water and keeping it free from pollution maintaining the correct degree of salinity selecting post larval prawns for cultivation feeding them in measured proportions at correct intervals weighing them weekly till they reach the desired weight correcting any problem immediately to prevent loss of the crop for prawns need unbroken 24 hour supervision.
During cultivation Podiratne helps the entrepreneurs with the bank and the revolving fund which has the PRDA guarantee smooths out difficulties between farming prawns and the sales point. His special strength is that he is a native of that area lives there and had his own workshop repairing fishermen’s motor bikes and other machinery. He is ’one of them’ always on the spot not an outsider with an alien life style deeply committed and expert in all aspects of prawn farmig.
Podiratne sees to it that farmers honour their debts and helps them reinvest some of their profits. A water pump to fill the pond costs US$750/- and can be recouped in one go. Each fisherman donates US$10/- of his profit to the rural small scale prawn farmers association strengthening communal ties helping the poorer sector’s welfare programmes. They also contributed to a 1 acre common pond used as training school and for research on their experiments and results. Podiratne also hopes they will buy four paddle wheels to aerate the water and increase the harvest 4 fold which will help them look after the association members’ welfare.
Now Podiratne has introduced equity shares so that the prawn farmers have further participation and benefits.
Podiratne is the live wire that helps their progress through career fulfilment and personal satisfaction.
The correct person is as important as the correct methods to ensure the success of any business. Thi is even more so in the case of rural micro enterprises.
IRED GENERAL SECRETARIAT COLOMBO OFFICE
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368