12 / 1993
FIELD MANAGER ASSISTS IRED ENTERPRISE
Deepthi Lamahewa is the new field manager of the People’s Rural Development Association (PRDA)and IRED Institution in Sri Lanka. Deepthi has the unusual advantage of having worked in several NGOs here enabling him tp look critically at them and compare their merits or limitations.
He was a university union chairman as an undergraduate in the 70s attending to various welfare measures and needs so that they were free to concentrate on their studies.
His first job was in an NGO in the central hill which focussed on integrated community development including vocational trainings and leadership skills. Its handicap was that the NGO had to finish the annual budget and the beneficiaries got used to short term benefits not providing continued sustainable income and welfare generation making them dependent on foreign aid without being given the tools to do things themselves. Assistance was piecemeal pulling them into the vicious cycle of dependence on external aid.
His next job was more rewarding when in 1990 he became the district coordinator for Puttalam for IRED’s Development Resource Centre. Networking together with 50 People’s Organisations (POs)helping them understand what they wanted and how they could do it he had to help them find out their strengths and weaknesses their priorities and needs. They were true grassroot level groups with no experience in community development. They were basically village societies undertaking small schemes, arranging death donation societies and so on. IRED working in very remote villages tried to identify their needs.
They were unable to understand their capacity to arrange for their furture, content with donations which helped them achieve any type of development in the village. Their enterprises remained very traditional and narrow. There was new thinking with IRED initiative showing them how and linking them with new possibilities with Revolvcing funds giving them a new start. Their weakness was that they were satisfied with short term step by step policies. This was not good enough for an organisation though it may have satisfied some individuals. An organisation needs organisational strength.
In 1990 IRED experimented with a Swiss donor who forced their priorities on the villagfes because their undertakings require demonstration of a projects success in the fiscal year. The Resource Centre too understood the issues involved through the Puttalam pilot project.
Two notable POs assisted with PRDA intervention were the micro prawn farms and the womens societies. By providing both commercial and welfare initiatives ovcer 100 men and women’s families in the community benefitted.
In 1993 PRDA formed 20 more women’s societies with donor assistance in Puttalam and Gampaha on the west coast for enterprise development. Most societies started self employment activities with small loans through the Revolving Fund before starting small enterprises so that they got on the job skill and experience to develop micro systems.
Deepthi helps them understand banking finance, a society’s function and their own capabilities. He feels he can handle their internal problems because of his long experience and natural empathy with the aspirations of the simple village people.
The field manager by dividing his time fruitfully between identifying villager’s needs and priorities, assisting them to set themselves up at every stage and sorting out their personal difficulties ensures the success of IRED/PRDA development intervention in small scale enterprises in Sri Lanka.
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