Just one year after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, CCF-Sri Lanka has completed the first phase of distribution of micro-enterprise loans in two of the hardest hit districts: Galle and Trincomalee.
And the loans are making a difference.
“I believe the families are now improving their incomes," said Wimal Liyannarachchi, manager of CCF’s micro-enterprise development program in Sri Lanka. "This directly and positively affects the nutritional level of the children and the children’s school attendance. It also helps the families repair their homes and purchase essential materials for their daily lives. Most importantly, it helps build up their mental happiness."
To reach this goal in December 2005, 323 tsunami-affected families received loans in the Galle District, located in southern Sri Lanka. Women in the families received training for the following and other related skills:
20 women trained to improve the quality of their coir — the stiff fiber from the outside of the coconut shell — products, such as rope or door mats, and the selling of the products in local markets. Coir fiber production is particularly important within Sri Lanka, which produces 36 percent of the world’s brown fiber output, most of which is consumed on the domestic market.
25 women learned to make laundry soap, five of whom are already selling soap on the local market. The production of laundry soap requires only a small space for manufacture and readily available ingredients. An item of daily necessity, laundry soap is essentially a mass consumption item.
32 women trained to make candles. They are currently exploring marketing opportunities in tourist areas. Tourism figures in Sri Lanka continue to rise as people return to the destination.
In addition to these new enterprises, many of the women participating in the micro-enterprise program are hoping to restart businesses lost in the tsunami or expand existing ones.
Wayposts and Milemarkers
At a glance, the micro-enterprise program targeting tsunami affected families in Sri Lanka has already reached a number of milestones, including:
In Galle, 14 community village banks have been established.
A total of US $49,340 has been given as loans to 323 families participating in the program in Galle District.
In Trincomalee, 42 are now running in the conflict and tsunami affected district of Trincomalee.
A total of US $152,650 has been given as loans to 1,015 families participating in the program in Trincomalee District.
More than US $145,000 of this money has been lent as working capital, an essential part of getting a new business off the ground.
Providing micro-business opportunities to tsunami affected families has not been without its challenges. Families have relocated to new areas as they recover from the disaster, while micro-credit loan groups require cohesion and relationships built over time.
Renewed fighting in the north and east of the country is creating concern among tsunami survivors, leading some families to relocate to other parts of the country or even India. The magnitude of the disaster itself created great vulnerabilities and urgency, particularly as government subsidy programs come to an end. The normal marketing channels were destroyed or severely disrupted by the disaster as well.
The CCF-Sri Lanka staff members found new and creative ways to help women to develop new techniques for their work and business management skills so that they could start generating income for their families again.
Finding a way to resume providing a sufficient and sustainable income for their families has been an important goal of the micro-enterprise program.