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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mismanagement cause of low coconut yields

The Island: 23/02/2007" by Suranga Gamage

Mismanagement of coconut plantations, compared to other commercial crops, has caused serious constraints in improving the yield, Chairman of the Coconut Research Institute, Dr. D.B.T. Wijeratne said.

He said that virtually no commercial cultivation uses organic fertilizer which is a must to improve soil condition and ground water absorption and very few estates use inorganic fertilizer.
"The plantation needs at least 1 per cent organic matter in soil and it would be better if it is at least about 2 per cent" Dr. Wijeratne said.

He said that in most places the percentage of organic matter available is less than half per cent.
The presence of organic matter in soil is an important factor in moisture management in plantations as a coconut tree absorbs about 50 liters of water per day from soil.

"Since most of our estates are presently having third generation coconut plants without any inter-cropping, the situation has resulted in drastic drop in the yield during droughts" Dr. Wijeratne said.

He said that by proper soil and water management techniques and optimum usage of fertilizer, the yield could be improved during the dry season.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

ICC turns paddy straw into strong panels

Daily Mirror: 22/02/2007"

International Construction Consortium (ICC) the Standard Bearer in the construction industry in Sri Lanka, has come off with an intriguing panel range out of paddy straw under the brand DURRA. An innovative technology initiated in Australia from the raw materials Paddy & Wheat Straw by Ortech Industries (Pvt) Ltd., the panels are widely in use in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Philippines and Indonesia. In Sri Lanka at present only panels for partitions, internal walls, fire doors and easy kits for houses are produced, whilst elsewhere external walls too are available.

ICC is introducing the same process in Sri Lanka but from the harnessing available resource of our own paddy fields, which otherwise are mainly consumed by fire as refuse. However history shows that paddy straw has been used by our farmers of yore in brick making for construction of houses. This fact is difficult to assimilate by the modernized world which depends on artificiality in most spheres. In DURRA the core is processed leveraging the intrinsic strength and durability of the straw that withstands extreme heat and pressure.

In the process non toxic bonding glue is also generated and thereby synthetic chemical glue is avoided. This is another environment conservation aspect of this wonder product. From the inception of the manufacture to the finished panels environmental conservation is considered as top priority. Whilst the standard dimensions are 8’ x 4’ , 50/ 58mm and a weight of 19Kg/ m2, they can be custom made. Also the texture could be of smooth paint, textured, fabric, wall paper or granular. They are movable too. A 100% ‘Green Product’, DURRA panels are recyclable as the composition is totally natural. Compared to many conventional boards or panels, DURRA is cost effective, economizing on time, labour and safety measures.

Apart from numerous uses for Houses, Offices, Factories, Schools and Supermarkets, the DURRA panels owing to their higher sound absorption characteristics and are highly acoustic. These sound proofing panels are widely applied in the construction of Filming, T.V., and Music Studios, Auditoriums, Gymnasiums & Work stations. Corporations can get this benefit for high profile conferences that need extreme privacy. Moreover its unique and distinctive features such as Fire/ Impact/ Thermal Resistance, makes DURRA a viable solution for architects and the customer alike in building. One notable feature is that these panels do not need any metal framing unlike in many other varieties as they are strong enough to be ‘self supportive’.
Novel additions to the Durra Product Family are the Fire Doors and easy kits manufactured ideally to be used in outdoor site offices and labour camps. The prominent characteristics of the Durra Fire Door are that it is tested by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) with proven 2 hr rating, could be customized, no health hazardous materials are used (glass wool), smoke prevention due to the intumescant strip. Available with/without accessories, Thickness 60mm and finally the sash consist of a hard wood frame of 50mm Durra fire barrier material laminated on either side with 5mm plywood.

It is envisaged by ICC that DURRA will occupy in the minds of the construction industry both the lay and the professional, as the most durable, eco-friendly and cost effective solution that will yield a much higher return on investment. The Company has in its pipeline more innovative products with similar qualities and effectiveness.

The Durra Fire Door is available at a totally revolutionary price and high performance compared to many competitive products available in the local market.

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Condominiums: Solution for post tsunami housing management

Daily Mirror: 22/02/2007" By Kirthi Hewamanne

Many housing projects have already been completed to house tsunami affected families with the funding of local and foreign organizations. Now it is important to set up a management system for these schemes to prevent a repeat of problems arisen in many government sponsored housing schemes. It is not practical for the Govt. or the donor organizations to manage these schemes on a long term basis.

Constructing unauthorized structures, encroaching into common areas, operating businesses in the complex, no proper garbage collections and disposal system, renting units without approval, overcrowding and unauthorized parking are the problems which will escalate into major issues in the long run.

Unless a proper management system is introduced and implemented, these problems can escalate and become out of control. Criminal activities, intimidation of residents by individuals within the scheme are also some of the problems in these complexes.
These problems are also there in some of the State sponsored housing schemes due to a lack of management systems introduced at the beginning.

Condominium management style is the best concept which should be introduced and implemented in these housing schemes.

Condominium is a private home ownership method. Therefore, it shouldn’t have minimum Govt. control and interference. They should be managed by the Residents Association.Most people think of a condominium as either a high-rise or low rise apartment building. It is a home ownership method and not the shape or size of a building. Condominiums can also be townhouses, semi-detached houses, or even fully detached houses. Condominium housing is successfully implemented for low, middle and high income groups. The units are individually owned and the land and other amenities are jointly owned with the rest of the unit owners. An awareness program of the Condominium Concept should be conducted to educate the residents of their rights and responsibilities. It has to be closely monitored and implemented by professionals with in-depth knowledge of the condominium concept.Graduates who are seeking employment in these respective areas can be trained to be Managers who can work with the residents to run day to day affairs of the complex. These corporations can make the owners more responsible to look after their housing schemes collectively. This will enhance the value of their own units.

RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES OF RESIDENTS

When buying an apartment in a condominium, the buyer must be aware of his/her rights and responsibilities

The condominium concept has the advantages of financial benefits from multiple ownership and also the disadvantages of multiple relationships. Therefore, the Condominium Corporation has an important role to play in the smooth running of the condominium complex. If you plan to buy a condominium, it is often said that buying the condominium is buying a life style. There are many advantages to condominium ownership. It may be less expensive than other types of homeownership. When you buy a single family detached home with all the benefits and facilities available in condominiums it can be expensive. Condominiums provide an “instant sense of community”. Condominium corporations may set restrictions on such things as owning pets and using common areas for the welfare and benefit of other residents. This is a private homeownership method, and due to lack of knowledge of the concept many serious mistakes have been made when setting up condominiums. In a condominium complex. units are owned exclusively by individuals and all other areas including land are jointly owned by these same individuals. Therefore all unit owners are responsible to create a satisfactory living environment for themselves and the other owners.

• What is a condominium property?
A condominium property is one where units of a building are sold to different buyers, while the areas and elements common to all, remain within the common ownership of all the unit owners. The buyers own their units exclusively, but the land, roadways, playgrounds, corridors, sewers etc., which serve all the units, are jointly owned by all the buyers.

• What would you acquire when you buy an apartment?
You get the exclusive ownership of your apartment as defined in the Condominium Plan. You are also a part owner of the common areas and services and the undivided land on which the property stands.

• How much of the common areas do you own?
In a condominium property you own the apartment exclusively and a share of the undivided land, common areas and services, based on the floor area of your apartment. This share is also filed with the Condominium Plan and determines the share owned by you for as long as the condominium property is intact. If you sell your apartment you also sell your share. The allocation of shares is usually based on giving one share per apartment, but can also be done in more complex ways. Therefore, if a condominium has 50 apartments and all are given one share each, you would own one fiftieth (1/50) of the land, common areas, and services. Another way of allocating of shares is based on the floor area of the individual units.

The writer is a Condominium Specialist and an award winning Realtor in Canada with wide experience in all aspects of Real Estate. Held membership in Canadian Real Estate Association & member of the Realtor Political Action Committee.

• Who maintains your apartment?
You are responsible for the maintenance of your apartment, within the boundaries marked in the Condominium Plan.

• Can you make structural changes to your apartment?
You cannot make structural changes in your apartment since it alters the Condominium Plan, and since it will affect other property owners in the condominium. If you want to make a change, you will have to get prior approval from the Condominium Management Corporation. Approval may not be granted if the Management Corporation is of the opinion that it may be detrimental to the structure of the building.

• Can you make changes to the finishes of your apartment?
You can make changes to the finishes of your apartment, provided you do not in any way affect other owners within the condominium. You can do colour washing, re-tiling and change fittings of the kitchen and bathrooms.

• What is a Management Corporation?
Upon registration of the condominium in the Land Registry, the Management Corporation which is a legal body is formed to manage the condominium property and administer the common elements and corporate assets. It is mandatory that all unit owners become members of the Corporation. The members appoint a Council to run the day to day affairs of the Condominium. The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Apartment Ownership Act. All voting is on the basis of one vote per residential unit.There will be a constitution for the Corporation and all unit owners should have a copy.

• What are the functions of a Management Corporation?
The Management Corporation is the owner of all common areas, common services, and the land on which the condominium stands. It is responsible for insuring the entire condominium and it is also responsible for the maintenance of all common areas and services. The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Act, the by-laws and the rules. It is their responsibility to demolish all unauthorized structures built, which are not in the original Condominium Plan. This law will be strictly enforced with the help of the newly formed Condominium Management Authority.

The Corporation may hire employees, contractors etc. and make payment for services rendered. The Council of the Management Corporation will appoint Auditors, enter into management agreements and supervise generally the affairs of the Corporation. It will determine an Annual Operating Budget for the anticipated expenses such as on-going maintenance, exterior painting, landscaping, insurance, legal and accounting charges and other current expenses. The Corporation is accountable to the share holders.

The writer is a Condominium Specialist and an award winning Realtor in Canada with wide experience in all aspects of Real Estate. Held membership in Canadian Real Estate Association & member of the Realtor Political Action Committee.

• Who provides funds to the Management Corporation?
Funding for the Management Corporation should come strictly from the condominium unit owners. The amount payable by each unit owner is based on his undivided share he owns of the condominium complex. The Management Corporation will compute the amount payable by each unit owner and collect it from them each month.

• Who pays for the water and power consumed by an apartment owner?
The owner or tenant will pay for power, water and other services like telephone etc.

• Who pays for common area lighting?
The Management Corporation will pay for common area lighting, and also for th maintenance of the lighting.

• Who pays local authority rates and taxes?
It is the responsibility of the unit owners.

• Who clears the garbage?
A garbage bin is provided which will be cleared by the Local Authority. The Management Corporation will give instructions with regard to clearing of the garbage.

• Who looks after roads, drains, and street lighting?

The Local Authority will take over this unless otherwise specified by the Management Corporation..

• Who will look after the water tower and main supply line to your condominium?
If a service line within the condominium needs repairs, it is the duty of the Management Corporation to look after this aspect.

• What happens if a condominium is destroyed completely by fire?
The Management Corporation will receive compensation if the condominium is insured. At that point the share holders may decide to rebuild the condominium using the money or they may decide to sell the land. In which case the compensation received and profits from the sale of land will be divided among the shareholders in proportion to the shares they hold.

• Landscaping the Common Areas. Who should do it?
It is the duty of the Management Corporation and the unit owners can make
suggestions to the Corporation.

• Who should decide the overall policy for managing the condominium?

It is the shareholders (unit owners) who prepare the by-laws, rules and regulations to be followed by the Corporation. They must be approved by not less than 51% of the unit owners.
As an alternative, the owners as a Corporation decide to hand over the total
management to an outside Organization. The Organization can sign an Agreement with the Management Corporation, and the unit owners will pay the management fee to the Corporation, who will pay the outside Organization.

• Who maintains your apartment?
You are responsible for the maintenance of your apartment, within the boundaries marked in the Condominium Plan.

• Can you make structural changes to your apartment?
You cannot make structural changes in your apartment since it alters the Condominium Plan, and since it will affect other property owners in the condominium. If you want to make a change, you will have to get prior approval from the Condominium Management Corporation. Approval may not be granted if the Management Corporation is of the opinion that it may be detrimental to the structure of the building.

• Can you make changes to the finishes of your apartment?
You can make changes to the finishes of your apartment, provided you do not in any way affect other owners within the condominium. You can do colour washing, re-tiling and change fittings of the kitchen and bathrooms.

• What is a Management Corporation?
Upon registration of the condominium in the Land Registry, the Management Corporation which is a legal body is formed to manage the condominium property and administer the common elements and corporate assets. It is mandatory that all unit owners become members of the Corporation.

The members appoint a Council to run the day to day affairs of the Condominium. The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Apartment Ownership Act. All voting is on the basis of one vote per residential unit.
There will be a constitution for the Corporation and all unit owners should have a copy.

• What are the functions of a Management Corporation?
The Management Corporation is the owner of all common areas, common services, and the land on which the condominium stands.

It is responsible for insuring the entire condominium and it is also responsible for the maintenance of all common areas and services.

The Corporation requires the unit owners to comply with the Act, the by-laws and the rules. It is their responsibility to demolish all unauthorized structures built, which are not in the original Condominium Plan. This law will be strictly enforced with the help of the newly formed Condominium Management Authority.

The Corporation may hire employees, contractors etc. and make payment for services rendered.
The Council of the Management Corporation will appoint Auditors, enter into management agreements and supervise generally the affairs of the Corporation. It will determine an Annual Operating Budget for the anticipated expenses such as on-going maintenance, exterior painting, landscaping, insurance, legal and accounting charges and other current expenses.The Corporation is accountable to the share holders.

• Who provides funds to the Management Corporation?
Funding for the Management Corporation should come strictly from the condominium unit owners. The amount payable by each unit owner is based on his undivided share he owns of the condominium complex. The Management Corporation will compute the amount payable by each unit owner and collect it from them each month.

• Who pays for the water and power consumed by an apartment owner?
The owner or tenant will pay for power, water and other services like telephone etc.

• Who pays for common area lighting?
The Management Corporation will pay for common area lighting, and also for the
maintenance of the lighting.

• Who pays local authority rates and taxes?
It is the responsibility of the unit owners.

• Who clears the garbage?
A garbage bin is provided which will be cleared by the Local Authority. The Management Corporation will give instructions with regard to clearing of the garbage.

• Who looks after roads, drains, and street lighting?
The Local Authority will take over this unless otherwise specified by the Management Corporation..

• Who will look after the water tower and main supply line to your condominium?
If a service line within the condominium needs repairs, it is the duty of the Management Corporation to look after this aspect.

• What happens if a condominium is destroyed completely by fire?
The Management Corporation will receive compensation if the condominium is insured. At that point the share holders may decide to rebuild the condominium using the money or they may decide to sell the land. In which case the compensation received and profits from the sale of land will be divided among the shareholders in proportion to the shares they hold.

• Landscaping the Common Areas. Who should do it?
It is the duty of the Management Corporation and the unit owners can make suggestions to the Corporation.

• Who should decide the overall policy for managing the condominium?

It is the shareholders (unit owners) who prepare the by-laws, rules and regulations to be followed by the Corporation. They must be approved by not less than 51% of the unit owners.
As an alternative, the owners as a Corporation decide to hand over the total management to an outside Organization. The Organization can sign an Agreement with the Management Corporation, and the unit owners will pay the management fee to the Corporation, who will pay the outside Organization.

The writer is a Condominium Specialist and an award winning Realtor in Canada with wide experience in all aspects of Real Estate. Held membership in Canadian Real Estate Association & member of the Realtor Political Action Committee.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Critical Thresholds for Escaping Poverty Traps and Millennium Development Goals

The Island: 20/02/2007" By Dr. S. B. Ekanayake, Consultant UNHCR, Geneva

MDG goals and globalisation

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set by the UN in 2000 (UNDP Report 2003) and the commitments of the rich and poor countries to achieve them were later affirmed in the Monetary Consensus that emerged from the March 2002 UN Financing for Development Forum, the September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the launch of the Doha Round on International trade. The MDG committed the nations to reduce poverty and promote peace and human rights and environmental sustainability. The MDG are laudable efforts of the member states of the UN set to the reduction of extreme poverty by 2015.
However, during the last few decades though globalisation has systematically benefited some of the world’s regions, it has bypassed others as well as many groups within countries. ‘Even large and growing economies such as India, Brazil, China, Mexico contain regions of intense poverty’ and there remain large pockets of poverty unaffected by the overall national growth. The social progress and economic benefits do also by-pass ethnic and other minorities and majorities. These include services like health, education, employment and economic opportunities to some sections of the community. Access to quality learning, achievements in public examinations, power blocks remaining within the traditional regions are visible even in countries like Sri Lanka which enjoys a high level of social facilities, in both education and health. Globally, although there has been a high level of increasing living standards in large parts of the world, millions of people have experienced economic and social reversals.

Constraints in achieving goals

There are many reasons for this. One common reason is ‘poor performance’. Corruption, incompetency, and unaccountability are causes of this anomaly. In some countries officialdom is resisting some crucial suggestions, from the UN to strengthen efforts to battle waste, mismanagement and unbridled corruption. The rich and the powerful gain more leaving the traditional deprived groups to remain in the same status. The latter has only a voting right but not a vociferous voice in gaining what they really need. The voting right is either robbed and or manipulated by the well to do for gaining power.

The smaller countries have little options for development in a world of globalisation, specially so when these counties depend on a few primary products. Added to these are the exacerbating structural problems such as population growth and other impediments such as diseases and geographical barriers. All these leave such countries in poverty traps.

Policy clusters to escape poverty traps

The UNDP Human Development Report as far back as 2003 has suggested ‘policy clusters’ to escape the poverty traps resulting from poor growth. Even those countries with high literacy and health statistics may fail in the long run to sustain the levels if their economies fail to provide the needed funds for these sectors. Of the many faceted clusters to break the poverty trap investing in human resource development, which includes health, nutrition, and education, is a critical need for the developing nations. This will help to foster a productive labour force that can face the world economy. It is in this context this article is written specially focusing on the Sri Lankan scenario. Thus the key question that should be raised against this backdrop is to what extent has the literacy levels that have gone up to almost 96% helped to strengthen the capacities of the quality of labour to compete in the world economy? If not what are the causes for the gaps? What type of strategies should be adopted to overcome these deficiencies?

Changes in educational objectives

One would see that the objectives of education have changed from that of mere learning for knowledge sake to an out put that is more practical and measurable in economic terms. Of course still the cultural and social elements remain as significant as ever before but there are new demands from education. Even in the traditional subjects the emphasis is on the practices than knowledge per se. These new demands are results of fast growing desires of the world economy and a part of the culture of globalisation. Hence why the emergence of new subjects at school level and disciplines at higher educational institutions are part of this repertoire readily responding to these changes. Thus environmental education, human rights, HIV AIDS etc. have become important in the curriculum as well as in state policies.

Changes are also seen in relation to the modalities of delivery of information. The formal approach, although important still, is now only one of the many processes through which knowledge and information is provided to an insatiable set of beneficiaries. It is therefore necessary to look into these aspects in a world of information. These mechanisms have to be set aright and realigned to get the maximum results as well as reach the beneficiaries at a lower cost and at higher efficiency modes. It is through such non-formal approaches that a larger number of beneficiaries would benefit. The large scale globalisation processes have to be broken down into smaller versions providing opportunities for the rural areas to escape from the poverty trap through a national level (.micro globalisation strategies’. The message here is that a country like Sri Lanka which has reached the critical threshold of education (including health and services) should be able to take off to sustained economic growth. But has that happened in the case of the people in rural areas of the country? The people in the peripheral areas still live at a level of ‘hand to mouth’ existence. The services they receive are inadequate, and reach them at odd times when the need is gone. The quality of the services are questionable. They are still not the masters of their destiny but mere cogs in a corrupt and exploited world. This is the true picture of the rural society.

For areas that are stuck in this poverty traps, growth will not be automatic. A few more buildings to the schools and additional materials alone will not be of any significance to improve the life styles of the poor farmers. Investments in human development alone may not be of use. Additional investments of the services in an integrated manner would be the right approach to break the poverty trap of the rural masses. Hence the importance of ,.emphasizing human rights and social equity to promote the well being of all people and to ensure the poor and marginalized people have the freedom and voice to influence decisions that affect their lives’. Capacity building of these aspects form the quality of life of the people. How can these aspects be promoted and lead to sustainable development process in the rural areas?

Sometimes disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis too bring relief to the communities at a later stage but at a high cost of human life and resources. The donors come out with magical support for relief work with tremendous undercurrents taking a greater part of relief support back to where it started. These areas become highly developed almost overnight and modem and well equipped services become the order of the day. But should governments wait for natural disasters to occur to commence development? Does that also mean that those not affected by disasters will not be developed to that level of sophistication through normal procedures? On the other hand have the people of the disaster group been provided opportunities for sustainability through growth investments? These are the dilemmas of the communities in the developing world.

New forms of learning

Now let us look at the new forms of education that have arisen over the last few decades to find out whether these could provide the needed opportunities for sustainability. Learning which was considered as time and place bound, meaning childhood to adulthood and located in institutions, has now taken a different conceptual path. It has been replaced by life long learning taking place every where without a center any where and includes formal and non-formal / informal periods of learning. Increasing value is added to learning outside academic disciplines that society recognizes as knowledge.

These new ideas of thinking have been a result of market forces, social and cultural changes which are transforming societies. The impact of globalisation and rapid technological changes has made it imperative that new forms of learning and opportunities emerge to gather knowledge. This aspect is seen and operational mostly at the national levels of the developing countries. But at the local level where the poverty trap prevails (refer to chart attached) there, is visibly a lack of articulation between the formal institutions of the State and the realities of the people at the village ‘level and the needs. Those living in the poverty trap need additional boosts to break through the barrier to enter the safety area and to emerge as partners in the globalisation process. The factors that could provide such impetus should arrive through NFE programmes and strategies.

It is why that in spite of the efforts of the States focus on MDG and EFA goals national education programmes have come under heavy criticism. Particularly, the failure to address the needs of the marginalized groups in the poverty trap. The system prevailing has not played a constructive role in mitigating poverty, marginalisation and unemployment. Hence the demand for realignment of the education systems in these countries is becoming the crying need of the day. In Sri Lanka all Education Commissions since 1940 commencing from Kanangara Reforms have been focusing on the need for re-examination of the purpose of education. These include the Jayasuriya Reforms and Bogoda Premaratne Reforms. Since the establishment of a permanent body for changes in education in Sri Lanka in the 90s the latest report of this body focuses on the need for reforms in the field of education. All these have attempted to re-examine the purpose of education, their management and delivery mechanisms as well as infusion of different socio-cultural perspectives into education. However, one could see that most of the recommendations of the reform committees since 1940s have never been implemented fully at any stage of time. These have carried, very forward looking positive changes taking into consideration the economic necessities of the nation.

NFE and market needs

‘In several countries, the drive to improve the quality of education within a broader labour market and poverty reduction perspective has opened the way for a more innovative use of both formal and non-formal (NFE) streams and providers and the creation of mechanisms through which they can interact more’ (UNESCO, 2006). Nonformal education is today a key provider in the educational systems. NFE focuses more on those socially excluded populations. These providers have also developed appropriate instructional methodologies. Several types of ‘synergies’ between these two, FE and NFE, are arising at the moment with various degrees of dominance of one or the other. In fact, in the early 1990s the NFE and Technical Education Department at the National Institute of Education developed an action research -project on synergy between FE and NFE. These were located in 6 centres attached to schools on an experimental basis. Unfortunately the educationists of the late 1990s thought otherwise and dismantled the whole department, in a similar fashion to what happened to pre-vocational studies in the 1970s!! These are tragedies which Sri Lanka cannot afford.

In some countries as a result of management being devolved to the local level ‘Community Schools’ and ‘Community Learning Centres’ are being established.

In addition methodologies of these two systems are used for enrichment of each other. At the same time NFE providers are being invited to assist formal systems in some countries. Status of NFE has been increased. In Sri Lanka since literacy rates have reached a high level the focus of NFE should be more developing human resources of the people at the village level to enable the community to upgrade themselves in many aspects of life which would lead to HRD.

Changes needed in NFE providers

The NEC of Sri Lanka in their report 2003 has recommended that ‘the Division (NFE, MOE) should avoid initiating a multiplicity of programmes but should develop model Community Learning Centres that will provide functional literacy, skills training, English Language and other relevant programmes for children, youth and adults, and liase with other ministries, private enterprise, NGOs and community based organizations to provide the necessary services and support’. Although the suggested activities do not provide a vision for NFE and its future. A suggestion to have NFE Commission would have been an appropriate step in the present circumstances. So long as NFE stays around FE the former would be treated as second class and the real benefits of NFE will rarely emerge. This psyche has to be taken out of the hearts and minds of those who practice NFE in Sri Lanka. NFE should have a life of its own and live separately but coalesce for mutual benefits. Then only NFE could provide a safety escape from the poverty trap and assist development at the village level.

The NFE providers should understand the wide range of contexts in which learning is taking place and the variety of different ways ‘in which learning is being organized informally to suit the learners needs in terms of time. The importance of this wide spectrum should be understood and practiced, by the NFE providers. Thus NFE has evolved from a mere supporter of access, to education to provide services to a host of other needs of the community which cannot be accommodated within the formal system. It is this driving force that would set the community at large to escape from the poverty trap and be partners of the globalisation process. NFE drives forward the agenda as to the purpose of education in concrete local contexts.

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Small-scale banana farmers face constraints

The Island: 20/02/2007" By Sunil C. Perera

A recently concluded survey on local banana cultivation shows that small-scale farmers are inhibted on account of their poverty, lack of proper price structure, irrigation land holdings, draught power and regular financial flow.

A team of scientists attached to the Open University of Sri Lanka did the survey. They said banana farmers in the Hambantota district, in particular, face these constraints more markedly that others. In Hambantota, a major shift in terms of choice of crops to be cultivated, an unequal distribution in the farm structures and land ownership has been emerging in the recent years.
According to the researchers, a number of small-scale farmers do not have access to local commercial banks and the opportunity to obtain bank loans, without govt. support, is limited.
"Most banks seek tangible ability of these farmers to repay loans,"the researchers said.
Some farmers mortgage lands and obtain loans from village level credit providers, who charge high rates of interest.

This particular segment of farmers have to pay exorbitant interest on loans secured. The government and its agents do not have a mechanism to end their economical grievances, researchers said.

Researchers suggest that the authorities implement early an easy rural credit system to assist the farmers.

The study revealed that banana cultivation is more lucrative as it has the capacity to produce higher economic surpluses and also a steady flow of income.

According to the study, a few farmers who operate large-scale holdings successfully indulge in banana cultivation. On the other hand, farmers cultivating small banana plots have not been able to make much headway. The ultimate outcome of the process is the creation of a landless class of small-holders, who have leased out their plots to the richer cultivators to end up as paid labourers on their own land.

Meanwhile, agrarian officials of the Hambantota area said a large number of small-scale farmers is perennially suffering as a consequence of the lack of infrastructure and prevailing economic barriers, to which the relevant authorities are unresponsive to.

Should the authorities develop better infrastructure, small-scale farmers would never need to lease out their land, officials said.

They also highlighted marketing problems faced by small-scale farmers and stressed the need to eliminate the ubiquitoius middleman menace. The also proposed setting up a smooth marketing system and an easy loan system like the Grameen concept operating in Bangladesh.

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