Right after the end of the Sri Lankan conflict in 2009, ACT member ECLOF Sri Lanka engaged in the post-conflict zone of Mannar which had been devastated after 30 years of fighting. In partnership with Episcopal Relief Development, ECLOF Sri Lanka began serving the resettled communities in the area, mostly supporting agriculture and fishery, the traditional income sources of these communities.
Special attention was given to developing the promising business of dairy farming through credit and associated training. The government fixes the prices for dairy products, and lately two large commercial milk collection centers were opened to purchase fresh milk in the area. In communities close to the sea, fishing is another trade ECLOF actively supports. In total, 86% of ECLOF’s loans in the area support agriculture and fishery.
ECLOF Sri Lanka works almost exclusively with women who organize themselves in solidarity societies upon ECLOF’s guidance. With support from local government, ECLOF provides not just loans but communal association and skills development, training women on leadership, self-empowerment, entrepreneurship and marketing before providing loans to develop their livelihood. ECLOF thereby complements the government’s reconstruction efforts which have brought much-needed infrastructure investment recently.
In 2014, an external evaluation of ECLOF Sri Lanka’s work in the post-conflict zone was undertaken, involving focus group discussions with 75 beneficiaries and individual interviews with 55 beneficiaries. The positive impact of the program was evident. It had enabled women to engage in income generation, taking advantage of profitable investment opportunities and developing micro enterprises. It had also smoothened consumption and reduced reliance on expensive informal sources of credit. 62% found that their living standard had increased: there were improvements in housing (better roofing, water and sanitation), children schooling rates, purchase of agro machinery and enhanced transport with bicycles and motorcycles.
Specifically for women, the greatest changes included greater involvement in family decision making (72% agreement), a bigger role in household cash generation, more sharing of household responsibilities and increased ownership of assets.
88% of respondents noted that credit had been the most important factor for their income generating activities.
While not all of these changes can be directly attributed to ECLOF’s intervention, it can be concluded that the positive impact of micro credit and associated training and community development has become very visible in the Mannar area.