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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. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Visit to Vavunia by indi.ca

Sunday Learder, April 5 2009, Article 14 by indi.ca

International celebrities like Arundhati Roy and M.I.A. have clumsily called for an end to the horrors in the north. While their concern is laudable, they would do well to address the Sri Lankan people. Roy has called this a racist war in the Times of India and asked for the world to step in.
M.I.A. wrote a letter in support of the Wanni Mercy Mission entering Sri Lankan waters without permission. This is simply insulting and wrong. I am Sri Lankan and this is still our country. This is a civil war and it must ultimately be resolved by the people of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan people elected this government, however terribly flawed. The people being bombed now couldn’t vote, because the LTTE wouldn’t let them. Today they cannot leave, again because the LTTE will not let them. If there is a party that can end this war tomorrow it is the LTTE and if there is a party that is affected by the international opinion it is the LTTE. Neither Roy nor M.I.A. mention the LTTE even once.
I say this not to demand ‘balanced’ coverage or because I consider them LTTE supporters. I mention these omissions simply because they profess a desire to help. Condemning the LTTE would help people on the ground, immediately.
Freedom under threat
It is true that our government does grievous wrong. To quote the assassinated editor of this very paper, ‘Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens.’ Our soldiers are dying in numbers we don’t know. There are people being kept in camps without permission to leave. As citizens, our freedom of speech and publication is under assault.
However, through all this, it is still our government. Our democracy has survived over 26 years of brutal terrorist onslaught, multiple rebellions, natural disasters and more. Granted, it is a mess, but it exists. Even throughout LTTE occupation it was still Sri Lankan government agents delivering health care and education to the north and east, as they do for the whole country. Even now the victims of war are treated in government hospitals.
Our government is corrupt, inefficient and oppressive, but it survives. And the Sri Lankan people survive. We can change our government, and we can change ourselves.
The international community
Roy and M.I.A. blame the Sri Lankan government and address the Sri Lankan people not at all. They act if the government is absolutely irredeemable and the Sri Lankan people do not exist. Instead they direct their complaints to the ‘international community’ and presume that any action will come from there. It won’t. That international community simply doesn’t exist in any real sense. They are unable to judge and fix Sri Lanka. Whatever their intentions, the result is to antagonise the government (which we can fix) and embolden the LTTE (which we cannot).
Political theatre
The same organisations waving Tamil Eelam maps in protests are now sending a ship to Sri Lanka. Their face is Arjunan Ethirveerasingam, former spokesman for the TRO, an organisation banned in the US for LTTE fund raising and procurement. Their mission lists foreign celebrities and British MPs as stakeholders, ignoring us entirely. They may believe that the land from Chilaw to Ampara is not Sri Lanka at all, but it is.
If they actually want to help people they have to put those politics aside and deal with the map we have. If you actually want to help people you have to work with the government.
Actual relief
I have been working with citizens who are sending relief to our fellow Sri Lankans in the north. This is only possible through close coordination with the various ministries of our government. There is one way you can help listed at the end of this article. Working with the government is frustrating and at times impossible, but it is the only way to get things done. There are no gala parties, but the relief actually reaches people. It may not make much of a point, but it makes a difference.
No excuses
None of this is to excuse the horrors of the north. I have seen children without limbs and there is no possible excuse. But you must understand. The LTTE is isolated and they are holding our relatives in the north as human shields. The government is responding with inhuman force to finally end this thing once and for all. Is there an easy answer here?
You cannot call in the world police because they won’t come. You cannot launch a ship full of celebrities into a war zone because you’ll get turned away. At the end of the day, Eelam or not, Sinhalese and Tamils and all Sri Lankans have to live together. We can use international help, but ultimately it’s something we have to workout without terrorism, through our democracy and for ourselves.
If you’d like to help out during this Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Deputy Minister of Social Services Lionel Premasiri is organising Ne Gam Yaame Viyapruthiya (visiting relatives for the New Year). On April 9th a convoy will begin in Tangalle collecting school supplies, household items, dry rations, new clothes, mattresses and plastic piggy banks with a few coins. It seems small, but it makes a real difference.
The Colombo collection point for Ne Gam Yaame Viyapruthiya in Colombo is the Shanti Foundation on Buller’s Road (near Kanatte junction). Contact 071-377-7666 for more info.

For more by indi.ca follow this link.

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Climate change impacts coconut

The Nation: By Dr. Sanathanie Ranasinghe
There is a broad consensus that climate change is occurring, and that it is linked to a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere enhancing the natural greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is, by far, the largest contributor to greenhouse effect. In addition to increased CO2, with climate changes, the plants have to adapt their ways to a new environment – in most cases warmer and possibly with the periods of extreme rainfall and drought.
As plantation researchers, we are mostly concerned about the changes in coconut yields by increased temperatures, precipitation differences and also from carbon fertilisation for plants. Whilst high temperature and long dry periods adversely affects the coconut yield, elevated CO2 positively affects plant productivity as the latter is a substrate for photosynthesis. The climate scientists predict future climates using different scenarios. However, projecting climate impacts is one thing, but plantation crops add multiple more dimensions of complexity – what are the sensitive stages of fruit development to stress condition, intensity of heat or drought stress, heat and drought tolerant coconut varieties, irrigation, soil moisture conservation, soil fertility and much more. In addition, the coconuts grown in different agro-climatic zones and different land suitability classes (There are five groups from very suitable to marginally suitable soils.) will respond differently to the climate change; some areas may be more vulnerable than the others. Therefore, one should understand that climatic change impacts on coconut sector are not a phenomenon controlled by a single factor.
Reproductive development is more sensitive to high temperature and water stress than vegetative development and the principal harmful effect of stress is on fruit set and development. The fruit set can be adversely affected, mainly due to a reduction in pollen quality and / or germination. The nut development can be affected mainly resulting small number of nuts, empty nuts or elongated nuts. Coconuts grown in intermediate and dry zones are often exposed to brief or sometimes prolonged period of heat stress, i.e. day time temperature warmer than 30-32ºC and long durations of dry period (more than 2 months rain-free period). The studies are under way to determine the most sensitive stages of coconut reproductive phase to high temperature and water stress and their impacts on coconut yield in different AER and land suitability classes and for different varieties. The degree of sensitivity and the pattern of reaction to high temperature stress and water stress may differ among varieties /cultivars.
In a country like Sri Lanka we do not have facilities to conduct field experiments with coconut and elevated CO2, therefore, with the available facilities; some experiments were conducted with coconut seedlings. The elevation of atmospheric CO2 concentration increased the photosynthetic rate of coconut seedlings by about 25% however; the effect on yield cannot be estimated in these studies.
On the other hand, tree plantation crops are particularly important for reducing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. They act as carbon reservoirs because trees hold much more carbon per unit area than other types of vegetation. Coconut plantations could be used in four ways to reduce CO2 emissions and sequestrate carbon; substitution of fossil fuel using bio-diesel or biomass from coconut oil, sequestration of C (carbon) through coconut plantation, enhancing C sequestration through coconut plantation management and conserving C sink in coconut ‘forest’.
Therefore, it is clear that climate change will have negative effects on coconut plantations by increased temperature and extreme droughts and positive effects on yield by CO2 fertilization. In addition coconut plantations can be used to mitigate climate change.
The Writer is the head of the Plant Physiological Department at the Coconut Research Institute of Sri Lanka.

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Global warming 'might hinder coconut production'

SCiDevNET: Tharaka Gamage, 15 April 2009

[COLOMBO] Global warming could adversely affect the production of coconuts — a staple fruit on which millions of tropical country inhabitants depend — scientists report.
Sri Lankan and US scientists analysed data on monthly rainfall from 1932 to 2003 in seven coconut-growing regions in Sri Lanka, and annual coconut production from 1971 to 2004. They found that coconut production was inhibited during drought years.
Using this data they developed a model to predict annual coconut production, based on temperature and rainfall patterns in its coconut-growing regions as well as greenhouse gas emission data.
Their analysis shows rising temperatures and rainfall changes could reduce coconut production through changes in fruit formation and nut development.
Sanathanie Ranasinghe, head of the plant physiology division at Sri Lanka's Coconut Research Institute (CRI) — one of the project partners — explains, "[Fruit formation] can be adversely affected, mainly due to a reduction in pollen quality and/or germination. The nut development can be affected, resulting in small number of nuts or empty nuts."
CRI scientists say the tree takes 18 months to mature, making it vulnerable to weather changes, particularly during the two dry seasons from January to March and July to August.
Millions of people in tropical countries depend on coconuts for food and cooking oil and use its fibres to make mats, mattresses, ropes, brooms and baskets. Sri Lanka alone produces 2.4 billion nuts every year, with 400,000 hectares, more than a fifth of its agricultural land, under coconut cultivation.
Studies are underway at CRI to determine the most sensitive stages of the coconut reproductive phase to high temperature and water stress and to assess the impact on coconut yield in different areas, land suitability classes and varieties.
A report published last month (30 March) by the US-based International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at the Columbia Climate Centre says the predictive model, which can yield a forecast 15 months in advance, have worked well since 2005 when they first started testing the model. CRI and the Foundation for Environment, Climate and Technology are now refining the model for regional and bimonthly forecasts, Lareef Zubair from IRI, told SciDev.Net.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Coastal Sri Lanka, Post-Tsunami Recovery Project Brings Economic Stability

ADRA: 04/14/2009, By Millie Castillo, ADRA Sri Lanka / Nadia McGill, ADRA International

The end of March marked the successful completion of the Livelihood and Infrastructure for Family Empowerment (LIFE) project, an initiative that targeted coastal communities in southern Sri Lanka that were directly affected by the 2004 Asian tsunami, said the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

The LIFE project, launched on October 1, 2006 by ADRA Sri Lanka, provided beneficiaries from Tangalle, Hambantota District, the necessary tools to start small businesses, including valuable information on financial management, vocational and skills training, and business counseling. LIFE also helped build 225 kitchens and more than 200 rain water harvesting tanks, conducted 315 health trainings and 7,200 house visits, and coordinated peace- and capacity-building activities. The implementation of a livelihood component created nearly a dozen savings groups among the beneficiaries, conducted vocational trainings, and gave 140 of the beneficiaries’ access to business entrepreneurship assistance and consultation through the Use-to-Own Program (UTOP).

Funded by Swiss Solidarity, ADRA Switzerland, and ADRA Czech Republic, the LIFE project was created to improve access to safe and adequate housing for 200 tsunami affected families in the villages of Kelanigama, Malgampura, and Marakolliya , increasing their incomes, and providing them with opportunities that would facilitate peace within their recently established communities.

In attendance to the LIFE project closing ceremonies were Mr. Laletha Wanigasekara, district representative-elect from the the Tangalle Municipal Council, Mrs. Priyanga Handunhewa, divisional secretary of Tangalle, government representatives from the three project villages, and officials from ADRA Sri Lanka and ADRA Switzerland.

“Many [non-governmental organizations] came to us after the tsunami and vanished just as well, but ADRA remained in the region working with the people and touching their hearts,” said Priyanga Handunhewa. “Today I have seen the faces of the beneficiaries and how their lives have improved.”

Before the ceremony, beneficiaries participated in an exhibition that showcased the skills they had obtained during the livelihood intervention component of the project, such as weaving, dressmaking, food processing, cake decorating, and more. Guests had the opportunity to see the goods created by project members, including baskets, garden pots, clothes, and spices.

“I have opened two bank accounts for my children thanks to the money I am making by selling food,” said Mrs. Mallika, a project beneficiary that received a gas stove, a small display stand and some pans from UTOP.

To ensure sustainability, ADRA also facilitated the planning of the Community Strategic Plan (CSP), which is expected to run from 2009 until 2011. The CSP is being implemented by the community, who designed an action plan with monitoring and evaluation, through planning, discussions, and decision making sessions, which led to establishing their vision, goals and objectives for their community.

“This is the first time an NGO is doing this here,” said Olive Orate, project manager for LIFE. “It gives the beneficiaries a sense of continuity.”

ADRA has been working in Sri Lanka since 1989 in the areas of economic development, emergency management, health, and food security.

For more details about ADRA Sri Lanka’s LIFE project, go to www.adrasrilanka.org.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information about ADRA, visit www.adra.org.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Post CFA North-East economies grew but with a worrying trend

The Island, 13/04/2009, By Devan Daniel

Despite investments agriculture declined by 10.3 percent

Despite growing above the national GDP growth rate during the post-cease fire era in 2005-07, the agriculture sector in the Northern and Eastern provinces have declined by almost 10. 3 percent, a fact that should receive the attention of government before planning investment strategies for the development of the war-torn regions, the Economics Director of the Government Peace Secretariat Rohantha Athukorala says.

"Even though the Eastern economy grew by 2 to 3 percentage points faster than the national average both in 2006 and 2007 contributing around 4.8 to 5 percent to national output, the declining growth in the Agricultural sector is worrying given that many companies, chambers and donor agencies worked on a multitude of tasks focusing on livelihood opportunities in the Eastern Province," Athukorala said addressing a conference organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) recently.

He said a reason for the decline could be due to the decline in the fisheries sector.

In the East, in 2002, the catch amounted to about 72,000 MT of fish, which dropped to 22,380 MT in 2005. The sector recovered last year with a catch of 61,000 MT.

The North recorded a catch of 56,000 MT in 2004. It declined to 15,000 MT in 2007.

The reasons for the decline are the fishing restrictions imposed for security reasons and the devastating affects of the tsunami.

"However the good news is there is hope the agricultural GDP growth will be positive as the fisheries sector has now been revived in the East and with the relaxation of restrictions in the North, 2009 will bring about a revival of the agricultural sectors of the two provinces," Athukorala said.

Athukorala said many post-tsunami and post-liberation investments have been made to revive livelihoods in the East where vegetative cultivations have continued and fisheries restored.

"However, the negative growth of 10.3 percent in agricultural growth calls for a focused evaluation of the real impacts of the investments made by different stakeholders so that the country will benefit.

"If Sri Lanka is to drive the fisheries sector we must develop a complete value-chain with cool rooms, an ice plant, freezer trucks and canning plants. There is a good opportunity for us to be a strong player in the global market suggested while livelihoods are sustained and this will help bring real Peace to the country in the long term," Athukorala said.

Turn around…

The overall agriculture sector of the country grew by 7.5 percent in 2008, largely due to the revival of agriculture in the East, which was once knows as the rice-bowl of Sri Lanka.

Athukorala said the government’s Eastern Development Programme has so far invested almost Rs.75 billion into various sectors while a further Rs.121 billion will be pumped by 2010.

These inputs have resulted in increase in Paddy production to 717,869 MT a 4.1 percent and while the out put of Maize increased to 17,655 MT last year.

‘Fruit Villages’ have increased to almost 26, benefitting over 500 people and over 48,000 plants have been issued to them

The post-tsunami infrastructure and housing reconstruction led to the boom in the industrial sector in the North and East and contributed towards catapulting of the Industrial sector to a 32 percent growth."This is encouraging but what is required now is a road network to drive market connectivity so that market access will drive livelihood development and create true peace, which can be sustained," he said.


According to a recent study of the Government Peace Secretariat, between 2005 and 2007 the Northern and Eastern Provinces recorded GDP growth rates of 12 percent and 13.3 percent respectively, higher than the rate at which the country’s economy grew by.

During the ‘Peace Dividend’ years between 2002 and 2004 when there was a lull in hostilities because of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), the Northern Province recorded 11.9 percent GDP growth as against 3.6 percent during the proceeding five years.

The Eastern Province grew by 5.8 percent during the CFA period as against 4.9 percent during the five years leading up to the CFA.

The message of that study was to show that the agricultural sector would have a ‘natural’ revival as war-time restrictions are lifted, which is crucial for building and restoring livelihoods. However, with lack of market access and investments to establish a viable manufacturing sector, the economic benefits of peace would not be felt by the people.

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