|Tuesday, 29 July 2003|
by Herbert Vitanage, Moneragala special correspondent
Jayasundara Wijeykoon MP Moneragala district and Deputy Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has finalised an effective plan of action to improve the living conditions of a large section of the low income group families in the land rich Moneragala district where the principal economic activity of these poor cultivators get involved in is the traditional slash and burn chena cultivation.
Wijeykoon says that due to the need to move from one area to another with every cultivation season these farmers do not care to set up a decent house for their living and continue to live in wattle and daub-maana thatched huts that can be abandoned with the harvest. This practice never permits them to own a decent house of their own and continues to spur them into remain in the same slash and burn activity that brings in this train so much environmental disasters even to the extent of promoting landslides and floods by opening up large tracts of land brought under chena cultivation for short periods.
No amount of preaching against this hazard will convince these poor peasants to get out of this self-imposed rut in their lives and it is for this purpose that we should make inroads to draw them away from this unholy practice even stealthily.
His project plan now finalised to be worked out and funded by an international funding agency will as a preliminary step in speeding up the economic emancipation of these farmers set about providing them with decent looking houses costing around Rs. 150,000 each to replace their hut dwellings within an area of their choice where land could also be found to promote family home garden activities besides offering them manual work of building the houses for which they will be paid daily wages.
Keeping them so occupied will diminish their urge to wander far and wide in search of virgin land for the next cultivation season. Meanwhile they can also be involved in the construction work of other houses in the neighbourhood thus providing them a better source of income and have more time to spend with their families and children, a luxury denied to them when they have to stay away from home to keep night vigils to protect their crops.
The UNF government is planning great strides of progress to offer the people of the Moneragala district in the field of agriculture with bringing large tracts of land under coconut and rubber and these farmers can be found employment in these schemes, blunting their urge to resort to chena farming.
He plans to commence this programme to cover the Buttala divisional secretariat area where he has found that 2778 hut dwellings will have to be replaced with the projected houses. Buttala houses are to be built within two years on participatory approaches causing the development of the individual alongside his housing standard.
Produced by Lake House