The basic tenet of the community college is that every individual in the society can contribute to the
upkeep and enhancement of it while each individual has a right to maximise their potential. In our
society, formal education is the key instrument for citizens to maximize their potential. Despite its free
availability, a large number of students, especially in the marginal and remote areas among the poor,
drop out of school before they reach grade ten, at which the first public examination, i.e. GCE OLs, is
conducted. Unfortunately, the country’s education policy does not adequately provide for the
absorption of these students for productive activities due to the government's budgetary constraints.
One solution the state has offered is the establishment of vocational training centres at the district level.
However, given the existing high demand for vocational training against the limited supply, the relevant
authorities have introduced a selection criterion to restrict the intake. As this requirement almost
always is GCE A levels, a large number of students who have dropped out before OLs find these
institutions inaccessible to them. The end result for the majority is joining the unskilled labour force in
their communities and being trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.
The three Community Colleges that Arthacharya has established in Wellawaya, Nikaweratiya and
Tanamalwila are entirely different models compared to the vocational training schools set up in districts
by the state. Arthacharya’s vocational training programmes are invariably low-cost and aim at creating
jobs in the trainee’s community. Also, the training programmes are designed following a market scan so
that the trainees will find employment more conveniently after their training. Besides, training
programmes are conducted to add value to the ongoing livelihood activities of the beneficiaries.
Community College activities are not necessarily limited to vocational training. They also conduct
training programmes to improve the quality of life of the families below the poverty line. Training in
nutrition education, family health and aesthetics are promoted, while Community Colleges also extend
facilities for collective action such as sports, drama and literary activities.
Arthacharya introduced the project as a possible solution to the elephant menace in the dry zone,
today’s most menacing issue for farmers. However, our external consultants found that the Sri Lankan
bee was not aggressive enough to chase away the wild elephants, as done by the African elephants. This
bad news could have halted the further progress of the project if not for the strong recommendation
our Dutch consultant made. He firmly believed that promoting beekeeping among poor farmers could
be an effective project in increasing their incomes, particularly given the rich diversity of vegetation in
the project area, which is quite beekeeping-friendly.
The project’s main objective is establishing beekeeping as a livelihood practice among 500 poor farmer
families in the Wellawaya and Tanamalwila DS divisions. So far, the project has trained more than 200
farmers, mostly women, of whom many are actively engaged in beekeeping and producing bee honey.
The project has partnered with the Department of Agriculture through an MOU in carrying out its
activities. Under this partnership, the DOA provides institutional training and technical assistance to bee
farmers identified by Arthacharya. Training is further provided to the beneficiaries and the technical
team by the Dutch expert, Mr Jan-Arie van Berkum, who visits the project every six months.
The latest development in the project is that under Jan-Arie’s guidance, the project selected nine beneficiaries who
are technically capable of training and providing technical assistance to the new entrants. These trainers
were selected after a technical test that the Dutch expert subjected to them. Out of the nine trainers, six
are women, and they are paid a stipend for their work.
Arthacharya introduced this project to the marginal rainfed farmers in Tanamalwila and Wellawaya in
response to the government's overnight banning of imported fertilizer a few years ago. The poor
farmers, already burdened with the lack of irrigation, unreliable and erratic monsoon rains and the
vagaries of the climate change factor, were shocked by this policy decision. The absence of alternative
methods replacing imported fertilizer introduced by the government through plans made ahead of the
critical decision led this category of farmers to disaster. Arthacharya introduced simple, eco-friendly,
low-cost methods to replace imported chemical fertilizer in a policy and technical intervention anarchy.
First, Arthacharya entered into an MOU with the DOA to implement a project to introduce compost
production to the farmer-beneficiaries of the project. However, due to some practical problems in
implementing the MOU, Arthacharya later partnered with the agriculture faculty of Ruhuna University
to implement the same project.
According to the project plan, in the first year, the project would train 20 key farmers on compost
making, and key farmers, in turn, would train others in the community. However, later, with some
foreign exchange availability, the government was able to import a limited amount of chemical
fertilizers, for which the demand among the farmers was very high. This development led Arthacharya
to change the project from compost production to eco-friendly farming, where the right balance is to be
made between chemical fertilizer and organic methods. Dr Rajika Amerasinghe of Ruhuna University
currently trains farmers through demonstrations on various eco-friendly methods: composting,
vermicomposting, and Azolla growing in ponds. The project team follows up on the demonstration
interventions in the community.
The increasing demand for organic methods is a testimonial to the analytical understanding the farmers have developed due to project interventions. The project is also supported by a technical team of two organic farming and agriculture experts in the Netherlands who volunteer for our resource partner, Sampath Foundation. They review the project’s activities through regular Zoom meetings with Arthacharya and Dr Amerasinghe.
Home Gardening is the other project Arthacharya introduced to its target communities in Tanamalwila
and Wellawaya, responding to the country's economic crisis.
Despite being a country with exceptionally good social indicators for third-world standards, the
nutritional statistics, especially among children and other vulnerable groups, have been low for a long
time. the stunting and wasting malnutrition among infants and school-going children has been
unacceptable compared to other social indicators. The economic crisis that heavily increased inflation
caused many problems for the poor, among which the dwindling value of their meagre incomes used to
meet nutritional needs was the worst. Research conducted by UNICEF and WFP revealed that food
inflation had hit 95%, while 60% of the poor could not have three meals a day. The situation in more
marginal Tanamalwila and Wellawaya would likely be higher than these national-level figures, though
they are unavailable.
The project aims at mobilising 300 women farmers among the poor to grow home gardens with
technical and material support from the project. Arthacharya, at the very outset, partnered with the
DOA for technical support and training through an MOU. Under this MOU, the Deputy Director of
Agriculture of the DOA does technical training for the selected farmer women of the area.
Among the material support provided are plants and seeds, plastic water tanks and chicks for poultry
This project is integrated with the eco-friendly farming project where the organic methods
Kidney Disease (CKD(U)) has taken the lives of thousands of people in the dry zone in the last two
decades. Even though a convincing cause has not yet been established, many scientists believe a strong
relationship between the disease and polluted water. As most of the victims were found and deaths
occurred in the North Central Province (NCP), the attention of the health authorities, researchers and
donors has been biased towards this part of the country. However, the isolated Tanamalwila and
Wellawaya have not been too far behind the NCP in terms of the number of victims, though the
attention paid by the above stakeholders has been limited.
Engaged in poverty reduction, Arthacharya has learned through experience that CKD(U) could cause
extreme vulnerability to the poor families it works with. Prevention is the best intervention method
because the vicious cycle it could create is hardly reversible.
Arthacharya has already developed an understanding with health authorities in the two divisions who
conduct clinics to create awareness and identify people with symptoms. The Participatory Rural
Appraisal methods that the project team and the community are trained in will facilitate the team to
identify the more affected areas, all drinking water sources, affected people and other relevant
information. The project also uses the health authorities to carry out blood tests to determine the stage
of disease that the patient is in. The project meets the costs of these tests. Besides, in the near future,
the project will mobilise water scientists at Ruhuna University to conduct water tests on all available
drinking water sources in identified areas and make people aware of their situation. Besides, the project
will promote rainwater harvesting for drinking as it is considered a safe source for drinking.
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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