Sri Lanka

FAO and the Italian cooperation collaborate to enhance livelihoods in Southeastern Sri Lanka

Colombo, July 29 -- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Italian Cooperation concluded a workshop yesterday, designed to put in place mechanisms for the development of model coastal communities in Hambantota, Ampara and Batticaloa. The workshop was opened on the 27 of July by G. Piyasena, Director General of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The workshop included 15 experts from 6 countries. Various agencies were represented including FAO, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, University of Peradeniya, STREAM Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia Pacific (Thailand), National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka, and A.P. Remote Sensing Application Centre (India).

The workshop was designed to consolidate the planning tools used for the Italian Cooperation financed project called "Integrated programme for the rehabilitation of the fisheries sector in the tsunami-affected districts of Hambantota, Ampara and Batticaloa". With a total budget of US$5.6 million, this two-year project supports tsunami affected communities through both the rapid distribution of fishing inputs and a longer-term support to the development of sustainable fisheries based livelihoods in 14 communities in the three districts.

Around 5 000 fishers were killed by the tsunami waves in Sri Lanka whilst tens of thousands of others saw their houses destroyed and their means of earning a living - their boats and nets- washed away. FAO's objective is to restore and enhance fisheries and agricultural based livelihoods to reduce vulnerability and increase self-reliance.

"The workshop developed the mechanism the project will use to ensure full participation of the communities involved in the project" said Paolo Bononi, Head of the Coordination and Technical Assistance Unit of the Italian Cooperation in Sri Lanka.

Three field teams composed of livelihood analysis experts will spend at least ten days in each of the selected communities. Through this exercise, the project will gain better knowledge on the capacity and strengths of people to take up livelihoods activities. Based on the outcomes of this consultation, the project will fund activities dealing with a special focus on Livelihood Diversification and Small Enterprise Development (LDED).

The project will also fund pilot aquaculture projects for the selected villages. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts will identify locations suitable for the development of saltwater aquaculture. The same data will be used for the development of an integrated natural resources information system (INRIS) for sustainable coastal zone management. The INRIS will provide local authorities with a tool which will facilitate natural resource management in the project areas.

"This project provides excellent tools for ensuring that future interventions in the sector are sustainable. We hope the process for the development of model coastal communities designed by this project can be employed in other coastal areas in the near future", said Dr Piyasena.

FAO is the UN's coordinating agency for the rehabilitation of the fisheries sector. Whilst FAO and the Sri Lankan government's immediate priority following the tsunami disaster has been to get the fishers fishing again as soon as possible, the longer-term strategy is to improve the sector as a whole with a view to raising the incomes of coastal communities.

For more information contact Mona Chaya, FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator in Sri Lanka, tel: 011-2689363 / 4