Economic Success with Welfare on Prawn Farms in Sri Lanka
03 / 1994
The government first introduced prawn farming to Sri Lanka as a highly successful forex earner in the 1980’s, leasing out state land in the Puttalam district on the west coast to large private companies. The earlier settlers were deprived of access to what they had considered their own land on which cattle grazed collected firewood and generally used for their communal activities.
In 1989 IRED as an intermediary agency took meaningful steps to enable the local fishermen to operate small scale prawn farming in 1/2 acre ponds through the effective use of training technology transfer and linking up with donors and local banks to provide necessary facilities and then organising the sale of their products. Within an year 4 small farms were set up and 16 people were working getting an average US$75/- a month on the basis of 2 breeding cycle an year. The villagers of Wairankattuwa were happy with their almost doubled income.
But all was not well. What of the other 100 odd families who did not benefit. They felt IRED had neglected them and provided opportunities to only a selected few. Concern for the poor and the wider community is very much a part of Sri Lankan culture. It is rooted in Buddhism and is a way of life at all social levels. This tradition had been ignored and a large number left out of the economic plan. An agency that showed concern for only economic achievement and no support for the cultural values supporting our social structure is regarded as an alien and not accepted as a friend. The beneficiaries were thought of as traitors to their own community.
There was an outbreak of violence and IRED realised its mistake in arranging an intervention that did not include the welfare of the local community at large, especially the poorest sector.
A donor agency in Thailand was contacted to get aid for a welfare oriented programme which signed an one year contract supporting these villagers, specially directed to villagers, especially, women health and other daily concerns of the poor.
Soon the villagers hostality dramatically changed and friendship and partnership with IRED was restored. Now the small scale prawn farms have been extended to 3 villages supervised by a project officer of that area and one of "them" and not an alien urbanite. He assists them with all aspects of the enterprise and is available on the spot. Further the prawn farmers have donated one of their ponds for a community pond for training and research, another step in the right direction.
IRED has found the vital element, a combined economic and welfare programme to assist village development schemes.
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