Sri Lanka

Women key beneficiaries of innovative rural road project in Sri Lanka

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Isolated rural villages in Sri Lanka will be connected to provincial road networks through an innovative project that will work closely with local governments to employ poor villagers, particularly women, to rehabilitate and maintain rural access roads in their area.

The ADB Board of Directors approved a $3 million grant from the Japan Fund For Poverty Reduction - funded by the Government of Japan and administered by ADB - to finance the project in more than 60 villages in the Eastern and North Central provinces.

Some 10,000 families in the project area have been marginalized from mainstream development and remain in poverty because rural access roads to their villages are either in poor conditions or do not exist. Most of the families depend on the government's welfare program, which barely meets their daily needs.

The ADB project will upgrade about 250 km of rural access roads, and pilot test a plan to improve rural transport services, to connect local communities to the provincial roads or to essential social services facilities. Four local non government organizations (NGOs) will be retained to identify, train and supervise up to 2,000 community members to work on road rehabilitation and maintenance. Another 900 community members will be given relevant skill training for livelihood development. At least 50% of the workers will be women, with opportunities extended to war widows and female heads of household.

The NGOs will also assist the workers in opening and maintaining bank accounts so that a portion of the workers income will be paid directly into individual accounts. These savings may provide a base for the establishment of micro and small-scale enterprises after completion of the road work.

"Isolation and marginalization are fundamental causes of poverty, and the villages in the project area have been isolated and marginalized for many years," said Francesco Tornieri, Social Development Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department.

"Through the rehabilitation of rural access road, this project will help address the underlying causes of poverty and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to a considerable number of the poor," added Mr. Tornieri.

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