The Sri Lankan Experience - 3
03 / 1994
EMPOWERING THE POOR THROUGH TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER - A CASE STUDY
IRED’s attitude towards the poor in Sri Lanka is that they can be helped by giving positive assistance to develop the skills they have. One method is by technology transfer from people in other lands organising people to people exchange programmes. Two peasant leaders from the coconut sector in Puttalam on the west coast were sent to Southern thailand. There they met people like themselves grappling with poverty and oppression to share experiences. In such direct contact peasants learn from each other and the Sri Lankans saw how pol matolu, a waste material from the coconut tree is processed in order to make beautiful handicrafts. One of them brought a coin purse turned out of this waste material and showed to his people how this technique could be adapted.
In Wilpotha, a village in Sri Lanka, a well organised women’s group were looking for opportunities for income gneration through self employment. IRED in association with the National Design Centre (NDC)arranged for them to develop a range of marketable products for sale after training.
The women appropriated this new technology as their own rather than something external to them. IRED assisted in getting 10 sewing machines donated by CIDA/Canada and building management capacity and quality control along with realistic pricing. IRED also helped them to find marketing channels so that they could supply orders at reasonable prices, both locally and abroad. Once they established themselves it become their responsibility to maintain these links.
The women leaders also help train other women in different parts of the island if interested. However, many of those who were originally trained had to drop out as they could not afford to wait till results (through income)was received.
Now 8 years later 40 families are supported by this small enterprise. A further group of 15 men earn an additional income by supplying the craftswomen with the raw material which is now a commercial product. They turn out toys, file covers, handbags and mobiles of great beauty which are grabbed by locals and tourists alike.
Thus in addition to the technological transfer on a people to people basis and adoption of a new craft, IRED’s intervention in Sri Lanka provides access to training credit and market services to Wilpotha villagers, a steady income for the craftswomen and additional income for those providing raw material.
The lesson to be learnt is that transfer of technology can lead to employment and income generation only if helped by support organisations to organise production, identify markets, link them to sales outlets, provide credit for working capital and purchase of tools and training in small scale entrepreneurship.
FERNANDO, Sunimal, DEVELOPMENT SUPPORT SERVICES OF THE IRED PARTNERS IN ASIA, Support Services for development (pvt)Ltd. Sri Lanka, 1991/06
IRED Asie (Development Support Service) - 562/3 Nawala Road - Rajagiriya - Sri Lanka Tel : 94 1 695 481 - Fax : 94 1 - 688 368