Reconciliation and Communal Harmony through Environmental Sustainability, with “Sustainable Living” Skills Development Centres in Jaffna and Hambantota Districts

Proposal narrative

Sri Lanka has been progressing through a period of post-war rebuilding and development for more than 6 years, bringing opportunities of reconciliation and peace building. In the wake of this trend there is a need for economic security for communities that are prevented from participating fully in economic, social, and political life of the country as a whole.

The two communities targeted in this project from Jaffna and Hambantota Districts are both communities that play a significant role on the economic and social fabric of Sri Lanka.

These two communities represent two major ethnic groups that were at the core of the conflict and were most affected. The lack of understanding and empathy between these two groups is a significant hurdle towards mitigating conflicts and promoting reconciliation. The divisions that were the natural consequence of a long drawn conflict served to isolate these communities from each other. The two communities considered for this project are those who largely depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

In Jaffna District, agriculture and fisheries have been the main economic activities, with over 60% of the workforce in this District depending solely on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agriculture in this District contributes substantially to the Gross National Product (GNP) of the country, as well as contributing approximately 65% of the total Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of the Jaffna District, inclusive of crops and livestock. Major cash crops like chili, onion, potato and banana are grown extensively and contribute to meet the necessity of the nation.

In Hambantota District alone, around 43% of the workforce depends on agriculture. This sector’s contribution has picked up over the past few years and therefore has also become a major contributor to the cultivation of cash crops very similar to that of the Jaffna District. For example: chili is deemed as one of the most important cash crops grown in Sri Lanka and both targeted districts make a significant contribution towards the agricultural sector of Sri Lanka.

There is little to no interaction between these communities despite being major contributors to the agricultural sector as a whole. Linking these communities through common issues faced by them both would in turn create a favourable atmosphere to generate empathy. This would help in understanding the intrinsic connection they have to each other and the environment.

The inherent link between the conservation of the environment and the success of their livelihoods is often overlooked in the constant fight for survival. Both these agricultural communities are largely unaware of the detrimental effects unsustainable agricultural practices and livelihoods have on the available natural resources. This often creates conflicts of survival within the community.

Therefore, there is a great need for creating awareness as well as continued involvement among both communities to provide training and empowerment to those engaged in environmentally related livelihoods.

This project will also aim to link these two communities together in a common cause by creating a shared space where there would be an exchange of ideas, an ability to learn from each other and strive to work towards restoring communal ties and harmony.

Project Objectives

• Promote reconciliation through understanding each other’s common issues to generate empathy towards one another.
• Aim to raise awareness of the need to protect natural resources, in order to ensure the safety and security of the communities.
• Enable the communities to unite with the aim of elevating their common livelihoods and learning from each other.
• Establish the importance of sustainable resource management and empowering the communities to engage in their livelihoods, while promoting environmental sustainability.
• Establish Skills Development Centres in order to facilitate information dissemination, an exchange of ideas and best practices, as well as training in the practice of sustainable livelihoods.

The Skills Development Centres, in Jaffna and Hambantota, will function as the focal points of implementing the activities and objectives of the project.

As a result, these communities would be able to enhance their knowledge base and as a result, be more empowered to safeguard their economic security, and lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

This project is proposed for a period of 3 years at its inception and based on the experience of this period, it is hoped to scale up in accordance.

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