“I was so impressed with this VKC model to render distant services from a single window point to rural masses of remote areas”
Village Focal Point / Key local driver for knowledge service
Issatheen is one of our passionate smallholder farmers and retired government worker from Minukkan Village, – Mannar who has joined the Food Security Program through Caritas Mannar (Valvuthayam) by the early part of the year 2018. He is an active & pioneer member of Senthamarai (Red-Lotus) SHG which comes under Minukkan CBO of Food Security Program. He is sharing his views here with us on establishing VKC in Minukkan Village.
‘I am Issatheen, from Minukkan village in the Mannar District. I am now 72 years of age and served as a Grama Niladhari (GN –Lowest administrative officer of the government who is responsible for the application of government regulations at the village level) until my retirement. I belong to the Islamic community. I married Havarumma in the year 1975 and have 3 daughters and a son. They are all married and now I and my wife are living in Minukkan Village – Mannar.
In the past, I was keenly interested in home gardening. Since I was a member of the School Youth Agricultural Club, I had been involved in various gardening activities throughout my school days. Even during my tenure as a Grama Niladari, I was promoting organic home gardening among various communities in the villages I worked.
My experiences enabled me to establish a small garden in my retired period to fulfill my childhood desire to become a model organic farmer. With the land availability, I expanded my garden a little with the income I got from my own products and the desire I had. Along with the vegetable gardening, I have started to integrate the land with poultry farming as well to increase the income.
Caritas Mannar – Valvuthayam identified our Minukkan village over an urgency of alleviating poverty and entered our village in 2018 to introduce the Food Security program.
Surprisingly, when they introduced the need and the contents of this Food security program I was amazed that the contents of the program are much more useful to our communities to eradicate and overcome poverty. Based on the layout of the program our communities were able to attend a number of timely important training sessions and learn on the organic home gardening and its procedures, Azolla production as Nitrogen source to plants, nutritious feed to cattle and chicks, Animal husbandry and Climate adaptation techniques for severe drought and floods.
Not only the trainings, there were few practical demonstrations arranged together with area agricultural instructors to produce organic compost with locally available ingredients, various pest repellent preparation methods, organic growth stimulators preparation, Nursery establishment and so on. With the tangible assistance (quality vegetable seed packs, vegetable seedlings, grow bags and few home garden tools and equipment) and the encouragement of the food security program, most of the families in our village started their home garden for their own consumption with the commencement of the project in 2018.
With the new experience I gained through all these training sessions and the advice of the field staff of Caritas Mannar, I further improved my home garden into a model vegetable garden in the village. Subsequently, I converted the model garden into an integrated farm model that includes goats, Cows, Country chicks and quails.
Constant monitoring and guidance of Caritas Mannar staff helped me a lot to overcome various practical challenges in the gardening. Now, I have improved my skills in making organic compost and various pest repellents for different needs. Now we are able to find fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and eggs from our own farm. Apart from my family consumption I sell the excess produce and earn a good income. A portion of the income is deposited in the savings of our CBO.
I realized that the scope of the program helped me a lot to boost my morale. As a result, during the pandemic period, I organized small group trainings in my model farm.
This is more important to me to insist here, that Caritas Mannar has formed Small-Help groups (SHGs) and Minukkan CBO which is registered under the Department of Agriculture. The CBO is operating smoothly with the guidance and assistance of our friendly project officers of the program. As a member of the Minukkan CBO and the former GN of the area, I am so proud of the solidarity among the multi-ethnic communities in our village Minukkan, which is further enhanced through these project interventions. As a civil society, we all together (35 members) saved 141,000.00 LKR as at November 2021, and this amount is being utilized as a revolving loan to our communities to fulfil their emergency financial requirements.
Recently, Caritas Mannar officers reached out to me and explained about the concept of the Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) and its value to the communities to improve the access to information through modern information and communication technology. When I was informed that my home has been selected by Caritas Mannar to be developed as a VKC, I felt so fortunate and impressed with the VKC model to render distant services from a single window point to rural masses of remote areas like ours. I believe that the families in the neighboring villages also will have the access to this knowledge center in future.
As government hasn’t shown firm commitment to improve the e-infrastructure in the villages like ours where needs and service requirements are at a very high level, we strongly believe VKC is meant for reaching the benefits of the information dissemination on best practices and recent agricultural advances together with ICT to promote single window delivery of need based services.
Caritas Mannar visits us frequently and organizes various need based trainings via virtual platforms like zoom, which is virtually connects experts on the subject matter and consultants with us. Now, we have started to get clarifications through the online communication system. We learnt to know the daily weather forecast information through a Viber group. We also learnt to know the daily market prices of the vegetables through Viber group. We have started to use internet to find out more information on best practices of agriculture. We now collect and file relevant government officers’ contact details, and farming related leaflets and posters of the Agriculture Department of Sri Lanka. We also came to know that there are a lot of opportunities to disseminate right information via VKC model in Sri Lanka.
We are so grateful to the support of Caritas Mannar, Caritas Sri Lanka, Caritas Norway and NORAD for their advice, encouragement, guidance and assistance to our communities in
Sri Lanka’s remote areas.’