Tantirimale to Kataragama. Ideas for Development
Posted on November 18th, 2011

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Garvin KarunaratneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Ph.D., Former SLAS(G.A.Matara 1971-73) November 18, 2011

Mt travels in Sri Lanka in November 2011 took me to Nuwarakalaviya, Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna, areas where I spent years in my young days as an administrator, In them I was working with the farmers and entrepreneurs, finding solutions to their myriad problems, problems that kept them gagged and bound. I have tried to share my experiences in my two novels: “Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Meda Me”, in1970 and in “Vidanege Diyaniya” in 2010 (Godages).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The problems of the peasants made me move from literature to economics and today I am a lone voice against the machinations of the IMF that has caused untold misery to the people in the Third World.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ My motor from Kings Rent a Car at Battaramulla, held the roads well.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ From Puttlam to Anuradhapura the road reminded me of my eternal trips from Anuradhapura to Padaviya in 1962. It was then a jeep track and I used to put my new Peugeot 203 on first gear and did not touch the accelerator. The car moved at a low speed up and down the mud puddles and the gaping holes. The entire road from Puttlam to Anuradhapura was being done at once and I kept wondering why our engineers could not do it in sections, finish and go to the next mile instead of messing up the entire length. Thanks to Kings Rent a Car I motored the entire length and breath from Tantirimale to Kataragama safe and sound without a single hitch of a misfire. Earlier I had nasty experiences from rent a cars companies- radiator leaks, battery failures, faulty brakes. Not so from Kings RentaCar. I can trust them for a roadworthy vehicle.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Two ideas that struck me repeatedly was the poverty of the people and the fact that they live amidst resources close at hand which if developed can deliver them out of poverty within a short time.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Thanks to the present Government we are blessed with roads, roads that can bring development and riches to the people and alleviate them out of their suffering. The latter is yet to be done but one can be assured of this only from a personage that did wonders in defeating terrorism

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The liberator is yet being pursued and Channel 4 is yet at the task- fabricating another “Killing Fields” documentary film. As President Rajapaklsa said today let them investigate not the last 10 days of the grim battle but the past thirty years of terror that Prabhakaran unleashed on us.. Let me only mention that the saintly chief priest of Tantirimale was killed in an LTTE attack on the Tantirimale Temple in 1992. The irony is that the temple authorities were so scared to death that in the epitaphs and writings in the temple today it is said that the chief priest passed away- a normal death. The fact that he was gunned down by the LTTE is not mentioned for fear of a reprisal from the LTTE that ruled Tantirimale till very recently.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In this trip what struck me most was the poverty among the peasants Ironically their mango trees were in full bearing and the tanks were beaming full of water. This is the second mango crop for the year. If the mango crop was properly handled or if the tanks were properly developed that would easily end the poverty of the peasants. It is as simple as that.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Perhaps this may be the next task for our leaders.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Let me put my development experience to work on how that can be done.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Perhaps someone who has the ability to do something today may get some idea from reading this Paper that may work wonders- like the wonder of annihilating terrorism from Sri Lanka which our eyes have recently seen.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The DryZone is our mango area and if action is taken to make mango juice, jam and chutney out of the present crop there is no necessity to import any fruit juice etc any more. Today we import food preparations for fifty billion rupees. Mango juice and mango jam, mango chutney are delicacies and what is needed is for the development infrastructure to be set in place to enable the unemployed people to get at the task of plucking the mangoes at the right time. This requires some training- simple training to identify when to pluck and the art of plucking with a basket tied to a long bamboo pole. Today easily half the crop is wasted because the crop is felled down to the ground. Then comes the task of processing it. It can be done in a small cannery or as a cottage industry. Our Marketing Department Cannery is no more. The IMF blew it to the private sector and it is no more offering floor prices for producers like what we did in the Marketing Department days. The present Government has to invest in buying small scale canneries and installing them in key areas. An alternative is to get the people trained in food preservation through schools. Mobile training units should be established to visit the villages and train the village folk.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A small syllabus should be drawn up and this training imparted in rural areas through the cooperatives and even through schools.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri Lanka is perhaps the only Third World Country that is blessed with a very large network of schools in rural areas. The only other country is Myanmar. Schools are closed after hours-a dead loss of an asset. In my development experience, I used the Matara, Rahula Collegel science laboratory for experiments to find the method of making crayons in 1971 for the Divisional Development Councils Programme. We, and that included science teachers burnt the mid night oil- it was a very successful attempt which resulted in our establishing Coop Crayon, an industry that provided a tenth of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s crayons in the 1971-1977 period. The Coop Crayon was the show piece in that DDCProgramme.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Again in Bangladesh on the Youth Self Employment Programme we got the training institutes that taught sewing to keep their doors open till ten in the night for the trainees to sew garments for sale. Normally the training schools closed at four. We got the trainees to use the machinery at the training institute till ten. It was a grand success.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Youth Self Employment Programme covered all areas of work- carpentry, sewing, livestock etc and by 2010 two million youths have become self employed. These two instances will convince anyone that schools can play a major role in development. This can also be done in school teaching. In the Dry Zone areas food processing should be within the teaching syllabus.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Lets get to the tanks that were full. The monsoon had not yet stepped in but the tanks were full with a few evening thunder showers. But sadly the tanks carry very little water. All tanks are silted up today and add to this is the method used today to bring earth from far and pile on the bund. If the earth is obtained from the tank bed and piled up on the bund then the tanks would be deeper and hold more water. In my days at Anuradhapura when I covered tanks I ordered tanks to be built with earth from the tank bed. Around ten tanks were built up. It was just putting a D8 tractor and in a few days the tank was built.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ There were no lorries carrying earth for miles and creating unnecessary work. However the attempt was short lived. I also leased out tank beds for making bricks. I had found fault with a dozen village cultivation officers for irregularities and their modus operandi of work was in danger. They ganged against me ending in me being transferred and my experiment of rebuilding tanks stopped in 1964, The JVP is supposed to have had another try at building tanks. That too failed and the poverty of the Nuwarakalaviya peasants lingers on till a saviour comes to rebuild the tanks. Perhaps this could be the call of the Engineering Division of the Sri Lanka Army. On my visits to Tantirimale and Kataragama at several places I noticed army tractors carrying earth.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Nuwarakalaviya tanks await the Army. Imagine awakening the thousands of peasants providing them with tankfuls- water sufficient to cultivate two seasons when now the water is not sufficient to cultivate even half the acreage in a single season.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ May I hope that these words will reach the eyes of our Defence Secretary.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In the USA the Army Corps of Engineers attends to make large scale hydro plants and building the levees at New Orleans to keep the sea away.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ If action is taken to harvest the mango crop and make it into juice that will be a permanent feature and enable the peasants to find an additional income every year. If the tanks are rebuilt it will be a great feat. Let me remind that the tanks that were destroyed by the British Army in 1818 in Moneragala and Wellawaya as a punishment for the people that rebelled against Britain are yet to be repaired.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This to my mind is the method of alleviating poverty. It is easier to give them a bag full of grain every week, like what we do under Samurdhi but that does not help alleviate poverty. Sadly it keeps them lingering within poverty. The saying goes “Do not give fish, but teach them how to fish”. By getting the crop of mangoes into mango juice and rebuilding the tanks the life of the Rajarata peasant will be transformed to a happiness and a prosperity that will help them for life .

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ By the way, the IMF will hear nothing of this because they look after the economies of the Developed Economies-the USA, Australia, Singapore that make the jam and juice and their economies depend on making and selling. Let us not forget that it was the IMF that closed down the Marketing Department and with it paved the way for the demise of our fruit processing industry making us depend on imports today. For details one can read my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Programmes of Success(Godages)


3 Responses to “Tantirimale to Kataragama. Ideas for Development”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Dr Garvin,

    We need entrepreneurship development to harness all these opportunities.

    Government should do more for entrepreneurship development in rural areas.The network of schools and Buddhist temples should be used for this.

    Then it will flow into economic benefits to farmers and consumers and everyone in between plus banks. Without entrepreneurship development nothing will happen. Infrastructure development by itself doesn’t develop rural areas. Without entrepreneurship development, infrastructure development alone will actually result in exploitation.

    Certain religious places that are already trying entrepreneurship development should be given some support irrespective of politics.

    e.g. Shri Jinaratana Karmika Puhunu Pasala (if it is functioning now) can expand.

  2. nandimitra Says:

    Devlepment means nothing until it is defined. Devolepment today is building infra structure on borrowed money and squandering most of it on administration and cut backs. Return of equity ignores the negative impact of this kind of devolepment egs enviormental damage. Mahaweli is a standing example. People are now dying of Kidney disease. This has never been properly investigated. Is it because the the digging has exposed mines? Blindly following the IMF ,World Bank Dictats and the EHEI Hamuduruwane mentality is not going to solve the problems of our people. The civil society must exert the checks and balances that the Dasa Raja Dharmaya exerted on the rulers of the past to have a balanced devolepmental programme for the benefit of the many.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    We hope Dr Karunratne’s ideas are implemented by GoSL and a Co-op system for Fruit Farmers. The ideas he presents here are simple and practical. Re the Mango crop : even if some raw mangoes are picked accidentally, they can be salted and sun dried. I have seen that being done quite successfully. Storage is easy in a large clay pot. Sun drying is done on local rough mats.

    Also, the mango pulp can be canned or made into juice and filled into Aseptic packaging, as done in India. We can learn much from the Indian experience of making Mango juice which marketed world wide. We saw in New York, Erie area, where the Concord grapes are processed and juiced and then packed in large Aluminum barrels and then frozen. The factory then utilizes this juice through the year to make Concord grape jelly and juices. Farmers Co-operatives take care of the needs of the grape farmers. Similar Fruit Growers Co-ops should be formed in different areas, to grow, collect and process the fruit,
    with the aid of GoSL.
    Re the Tanks silting up : I am thrilled with the possibilities of resurrecting these Tanks, as presented by Dr Karunaratne. JVP should revive the Dahasak Wav idea. May be the time is right now.

    Another good idea for Sri Lanka is to grow Stevia plants and make sweetener with it instead of cane sugar. The indigenous South Americans have used these leaves as a sweetner for over two hundred years and it is quite safe for human consumption. It is a safe sweetner for diabetics. Stevia grows in Uruguay and Paraguay and the leaf of the plant is very sweet like sugar but it has no effect on blood sugar and there are no calories. In Japan about 65% of the sweetener market is Stevia. There may be Japanese businessmen who may be interested in joint venture programs. GoSL should investigate. Now is the time for GoSL to take up these issues and let nothing stop them.

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