Microfinance is the strongest component of the Arthacharya-Arthavida programme during the last 20 years. However, an important lesson that both organisations have learned is the fact that microfinance alone cannot alleviate poverty. There are many other issues that need to be addressed through poverty reduction programmes. One such issue is irrigation water.
Dependency on highly seasonal and erratic rainfall is a serious constrain faced by the poor farmers in Wellawaya area. Often they are not able to have more than one crop a year due to non-availability of major or minor irrigation schemes in most of the areas where Arthacharya and Arthavida are active. Though the area had a very advanced network of village and feeder tanks covering the whole area for many centuries the colonial rulers in controlling the rebellions in 1818 and 1848 destroyed the irrigation system since they knew that the socio-economic strength of the locals relied heavily on the tank irrigation system. The aim of this project is to renovate and reconstruct such destroyed tanks through the participation of the beneficiaries and other stakeholders while refining a model of participatory irrigation development. Together with Waterhelp Netherlands, E.F.I.M. Hendriks Foundation, The Water Board of the Netherlands and the Rabobank Foundation the Arthacharya Foundation is to undertake an irrigation project to be implemented in the Moneragala district soon.
The first stage of the project will be to increase the water holding capacity of the Bodhiwewa in Kudaoya, Wellawaya where Arthavida Foundation has microfinance programmes. Project will connect a feeder canal which has water all the year around to the tank to increase the water level. This will not only increase the area of irrigation while providing water for a higher number of farmers while enabling them to have two irrigated crops instead of the one they have at present. It is estimated that the production and incomes therefore will be more than doubled while the levels of nutrition too will go up.
Based on the experience of this project it will be expanded to ten more communities so that the project will further gather experience while allowing all the important stakeholders i.e. agrarian services department, irrigation department, DS Office, local authority, District Secretary, Chief Minister the Governor and other politicians to participate.Project also plans to mobilize the beneficiaries to participate in a more active way by providing them the opportunity to share a part of the cost of the construction work in addition to their labour contribution so that there will be a higher level of ownership while making the continuation of the project sustainable. Project is eventually expected to cover 30 to 40 tanks in a period of three years.
Engaged in poverty reduction Arthacharya is an organisation which focuses only on the poorest of the poor in the society. Also, it is definitely not yet another service delivery operation.
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