|Sumanawathie has never used chemical fertiliser for passion fruit cultivation|
The people in the Uva Wellassa region, particularly in the Siyabalanduwa Divisional Secretariat, bore the brunt of poverty after the British colonial regime destroyed paddy fields and irrigation systems in the region. This was in the aftermath of the 1818 Great Rebellion aimed at liberating the country from the clutches of British colonial rule.
The male population above the age of 18 were ordered to be killed while houses in the entire region were also destroyed.
The entire region once known as the Rice Bowl of the nation was neglected by British rulers and successive Anglophile leaders of post independent Sri Lanka.
The UPFA government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa implemented a massive programme to develop the entire region and uplift the rural economy.
|Minister Basil Rajapaksa|
A massive programme is now underway at village level in the Moneragala district under the Community Development and Livelihood Improvement project of the Economic Development Ministry under the instructions of Minister Basil Rajapaksa to enhance the economy of families under the poverty line.
Over 6,000 families in 237 villages in the Moneragala District have benefitted by this programme focusing on overall development of the village. The villagers have the freedom to select their own project, such as sugarcane, plantain and passion fruit cultivation for which loans are provided by the village organisation with a grace period ranging from seven - 14 months.
Every resident of the village where this programme is in operation can obtain loans from the revolving fund of the village and an incentive fund is also given for the passion fruit cultivation and dairy farming.
A special fund is operated by these organisations for skills development in the village too.
The village organisation provides financial assistance to villagers only and the revolving fund is strengthened day by day as beneficiaries have to repay the loans with interests.
The poorest families in the village are also selected under this programme. They are given a grant to initiate a project of their choice. Almost all families in these villages have started their own project with the capital made available by the Economic Development Ministry under this project.
Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sumanawathie is among thousands of women who came out of poverty with the help of this project. She had only a life of misery until she met Siyabalanduwa project office officials.
Sumanawathie of Bowala village in the Siyabalanduwa DS division was leading a life of poverty. She used to wake up early in the morning, boil something for breakfast and go in search of a farming land where she could provide labour. She worked for Rs.125 per day.
Yet, she participated in every meeting of the village organisation through which funds were made available to the villagers to carry out the projects of their choice.
She was the first woman to initiate the passion fruit cultivation which recorded enormous success.
Sumanawathie said her average daily income has arisen from Rs.125 to Rs. 2,000 due to this project.
The hut in which Sumanawathie and her family lived is no more. Instead,she has built a two roomed house.
“I used to feel embarrassed when visitors came to my house as I was not in a position to entertain them,” she said.
Sumanawathie added that she is now capable of hosting any number of visitors because she is financially stable to bear such costs due to this project.
Sumanawathie says she has never used chemical fertiliser for passion fruit cultivation. “The agriculture official in the area gave us instructions on how organic fertiliser is prepared without any cost,” she said.
She digs a 4x4 pit for every passion fruit seedling and fills them with dried and raw leaves and cowdung which turns to compost. “After that the seedlings are planted,” she said.
She says every passion fruit grower should have commitment if they want to enjoy fruitful results.
Pruning unproductive shoots and watering at the right time is crucial for passion fruit cultivation, Sumanawathie said.
Sumanawathie has also ventured into selling passion fruit seedlings to farmers in the area at an affordable price. Sumanwathie used to go to the weekly fair with her produce which had a huge demand.
Now she does not have to go to the market as the traders come to her door step. She has been able to provide a better education to her children even though she has never been to school.
“I spend every cent for my children’s education and they are doing very well,” she said.
Sumanawathie has also started providing assistance to villagers who have have started passion fruit cultivation projects. She visits their farms and gives them instructions through her experience.
She is one of the happiest women in the Boawala village as she has been able to pay off all loans and save money for her and the children.
Sumanwathie says the area does not have electricity, but hopes to obtain electricity to my home, when the government provides electricity to her village.