Thammittagama Village is situated in the Kurunegala District in Sri Lanka. A Village level environmental adult group was formed in the village under the ‘Stepping Stones to Safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Natural Environment project’ (SSEP), implemented by Caritas Sri Lanka in early 2023. After several discussions with the villagers, a serious issue which affects them badly when it comes to their livelihood was identified by villagers and Caritas Janasetha came forward to facilitate it. Accordingly, the Thammitigama Tank which provides water to facilitate two seasonal paddy cultivations in the village are covered with weed and other bushes limiting the storage capacity of water to cultivate paddy. As a result, the farmers are finding it difficult to cultivate even a single paddy season with barely stored water from the tank.
Hence, the villagers with the support of Caritas Kurunagala Janasetha organized a cleanup campaign to clear the surface level aquatic weed and bushes to enhance the storage capacity of the tank on 22nd March 2023 while remembering the World Water Day along with the Environmental group members from the village.
Thammittagama is known for paddy cultivation in Kurunagala District. Nevertheless, the village is vulnerable to inadequate water for farming and irrigation. In addition, the ongoing economic crisis of the country is also affecting the daily lives of the people in the village. The farmers in Thammitigama Village primarily focus on commercial paddy cultivation for both commercial and domestic consumption. However, due to the high water requirements of commercial paddy cultivation, they limit their cultivation to the Maha season only.
As a result, they face unemployment and a lack of work during the Yala season. This major issue got aggravated day by day. Therefore, in response to these challenges, the environmental group in Thammitigama Village had come together to clean and protect their only water resource the Thammitigaa Tank available for cultivation during the Yala season.
Caritas Kurunagala – Janasetha helped the community in the village by taking collective action, which aims to preserve and optimize the use of this water resource, ensuring sustainable cultivation and livelihoods for the farmers in the village. The entire clean-up campaign was held under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Thusitha Priyanga, the Director of Caritas Kurunagala. Mr. Wijitha Athapaththu, the Divisional Officer of the Department of Agrarian Development Nagollagama also joined the special event to support the villagers.
Thammitigama Lake covers 48 acres of the area and this is used to cultivate 60 – 80 acres of Paddy fields. Cleaning the tank was a challenge due to some carnivores’ fishes, snakes, and beetles in the lake attacking the villagers who came to clean it. And the epiphytes growth over the lake was very dense and it was very hard to cut and remove them. These epiphytes grown over the lake cause some skin allergies to the farmers.
Hence, farmers had to hire some experienced people with skills and know-how from surrounding villages to remove the overgrown bushes in the lake. They were able to slice the epiphytes into manageable pieces and hauled them to shore where an excavator cleared them from the lake. Farmers have planned to use residual from the lake to prepare organic fertilizer in the coming weeks. At last, they were able to finish the cleaning within 4 days. Although more work remained to be done, the cleaned area now stands ready for the cultivation in Yala season having stored more water in the tank.
During the 1st year of the project, under the SSEP project, 5 farmers were to be selected to cultivate traditional paddy varieties. Surprisingly Kurunegala Diocese was able to support 28 farmers in their Diocese to engage in traditional paddy cultivation.
Those farmers now cultivate over 30 acres of lush, native paddy fields. In addition to those 28 farmers, the Thammitigama Tank is also supporting more farmers who are cultivating in Nagollagama. As of now, there are 28 farmer families directly and more than 60 families indirectly are being benefited by the SSEP project.
The SSEP Village group constructed a billboard to mark this event and was eager to clean the tank further till the boundaries of the forest reserve which is the nurturing tank. The National Centre team visited Thammitigama village and had a discussion with the villagers who participated in the clean-up.
The villagers thanked Caritas profusely for the support given and promised to sustain the clean-up campaigns regularly.
“Stepping Stones to Safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Natural Environment project’ (SSEP) is being implemented in all the 13 Diocesan Centres covering the entire island with the funding assistance of Misereor, a German development agency comes under the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference.