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Sunday, 12 February 2012

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BoC bid to create model agricultural village:

Doramadalawa's bid to become an exemplary village



Innovative methods used

For many Sri Lankans the name 'Doramadalawa' has a significant value whether it is due to their knowledge of history or due to the frequent use of this name in a popular TV program, but for more than 200 families living in the village Doramadalawa in the Anuradhapura district, the name of their village had no significance.

They are aware that they live in a historic village, that provided protection to King Pandukabhaya in his childhood from his uncles who wanted to see his blood, fearing their annihilation as they daily see the cave temple and the historic Devalaya in the centre of Doramadalawa village, but it does not make them proud as they are not the ancestral villagers living in that historic village.

Historical

Today these villagers are proud, not only for living in a village with a historical value, but due to their ability to transform that village into one of the outstanding villages to set an example to the entire country.

They have become outstanding people not because they are engaged in agricultural activities but they have become real movers to change the typical picture of a village dependent on chena cultivation, into a village that can generate all kinds of crops and share the excess with the other villagers.


Dharmasiri with his family in their garden

Grains cultivations
Wimalasena in his garden

Anyone who could visit this hamlet located some three kilometres interior from the 136th kilometre post on the A-9 road after passing Mihintale town, and have a glimpse on their home gardens, may wonder whether they are actually in Raja Rata or in any other part of the country.

If not for the accidental meeting of Upali Ratnamalala attached to Bank of Ceylon, Doramadalawa village during my visit to Anuradhapura to cover Deyata Kirula exhibition, I too would not have been aware of the villagers achievements.

Though it was an accidental visit it gave me an inspiring and refreshing experience about these villagers who had made the impossible things possible even under most difficult circumstances.

Bank of Ceylon, which had become a tower of strength to the entire Sri Lanka, has also become a strength to these villagers as it was the bank which had backed and guided them after introducing these new concepts to the people in their bid to do something worth for the country parallel to Deyata Kirula exhibition held in Oyamaduwa in Anuradhapura.

The concepts introduced by the 'Divi Neguma' program introduced by the Economic Development Ministry throughout the country has become a practical reality in Doramadalawa village as a result of the efforts made by the BoC to create a model agricultural village consisting of self-sufficient domestic units becoming a ground reality there.

 

The project has been initiated by the BoC in the mid of last year with the hope that Mihintale area will become the centre for Deyata Kirula exhibition. Although, the venue of the exhibition is shifted to Oyamaduwa in the western part of Anuradhapura district, the BoC did not leave their project in Doramadalawa.

To make this vision a reality, the people of this village who had to depend on rain water for their cultivations despite they live in Raja Rata famous for massive tanks meant for agricultural purposes had to stand against all odds they had to face in their life.


Upali Ratnamala, BoC Coordinator of the program

"What they needed was the guidance, knowledge to go ahead with the program and also the financial assistance to clear the small bottlenecks that had prevented them from making big strides in their lives at the most needed hour in their life", Upali Ratnamalala, the co-ordinating officer to this program from the BoC said.

Though there are signs to say that these people have benefited from some programs like rain water harvesting and other agricultural wells programs initiated by government or non-governmental organisations, it is apparent that those programs could not make any change in their lives. Thus all those structures they have created in their lands also becoming a burden to them.

However, it also became an advantage for Doramadalawa people as BoC was searching for a village that has many challenges to overcome when they implement this project to create a model agricultural village under a concept of BoC Chairman, Dr. Gamini Wickremasinghe and under the guidance of Additional General Manager C. Samarasinghe.

"We get a diverse section of people there in Doramadalawa solely dependent on agriculture but ignorant of modern agricultural methods. Therefore it became a big challenge for the BoC to implement this program with a set of people having different knowledge levels and diverse political views", Ratnamalala added.

Requirements

According to the background of various people the BoC was able to get the participation of 157 families to the program.

What BoC needed was to develop all home gardens in Doramadalawa into gardens that can provide all basic food requirements of the family.

To help people of Doramadalawa and to achieve this objective, BoC provided the expert knowledge of retired Deputy Director of the Agriculture Department K.L. Jayatissa and retired Agriculture Officer I. D. Jayasena.

At the initial stage the families who were willing to participate in the program were put into groups making it easy for all.

One of the major problems they had in Doramadalawa was lack of water for the cultivation and many people had to depend on the agricultural wells to cultivate their lands. But many of them were not in a position to properly construct their agricultural wells and maintain them to make use of them effectively.

"When we came here in May 2011 only about 35 agricultural wells were available for all 200 families living there. Many of them were not properly maintained. Therefore, we decided to provide them loans to have agricultural wells with the help of the water resources board", Ratnamalala added.

With the implementation of that program more than 80 agricultural wells are now available in the village to provide much needed water for their cultivations, solving a long felt need of the people.

"Without solving the water problem, the implementation of this project would have been a remote dream for us", Ratnamalala added.

Prior to initiating the program all the participants were taken to Gannoruwa Agriculture Research Institute to have workshop there in two groups and give them an idea what they have to do in their gardens.

Nearly 157 families who are participating in this program have made a visible change in their home gardens, making them more attractive. Even the places they earlier thought that no crop would grow had been turned into attractive vegetable beds.

Boutique

Swarna who used to run a boutique has made a big change in her garden after cultivating many crops which she earlier thought will never grow in their gardens. "Now we are growing carrot, beet, leeks and other crops also in our garden. We did not think that it would be successful but today we have realised that we can grow any crop here without any problem if we have determination to cultivate them", she added.

The 49 year old Wimalasena, better known as Raja in Doramadalawa village, also a participant in this program who successfully cultivated many crops in his garden. After becoming resident in Doramadalawa six years back he had many difficulties when cultivating his lands. Wimalasena, along with his wife Priyantha Nalini used to draw water from the well and cultivate their lands which turned out to be a very difficult exercise for them.

"After we joined this program the BoC provided us a Rs.200,000 to construct this agriculture well and to buy a water pump. Now we can cultivate our lands easily, making use of the agriculture well", he added.

The garden of Wimalasena is very rich with all kinds of crops, different varieties of the grains, yams and also herbal plants. His innovative methods used in cultivating different kinds of crops has made his home garden a very attractive one.

"Earlier we used to cultivate vegetables and other crops in paddy lands. Now we get the assistance of the agriculture officials when growing these vegetables and create different types of beds for different crops and it has become successful", he added.

Like Wimalasena, Mahinda Gunawardhana and his wife Chamila and the family of Dharmasiri too has shown very good results in their home gardening project, apart from engaging in large scale cultivations which they used to do as their livelihood.

The home garden of Dharmasiri which was used to dump metal has now turned into a nice gardens full of crops making use all the waste created in the house. It has also helped them to keep their home and the garden clean as they are making use of everything for cultivations.

They all have made use of all available resources to turn their lands into an attractive place.

One of the main features in their cultivations is the non usage of fertiliser other than compost they have produced in their own gardens. As insecticides also they can use only natural things.

K.L. Jayatissa who is guiding the villagers to cultivate their home gardens with his knowledge, said that many people are following the methods he has introduced.

"I had to start from zero level as they had no basic knowledge about cultivations other than their traditional knowledge. We have now come a long way and now we are in the climax of our program", he added.

"We launched this program as a competition and who have come out with innovative methods will be rewarded by the BoC. Out of 157 families 130 will receive prizes for their contribution", he added.

The BoC has made arrangements to create a market for their crops also by making arrangements to collect the excess crops and vegetables and sell them to the government institutions and banks in Mihintale area.

"We have provided a loan to a person in Doramadalawa to buy a Dimo Batta vehicle and collect all vegetables from households. After collecting them we create bags consisting of 250 grams of green chilli, 500 grams of tomato, 500 grams of beans, snake goad and green leave in one bag and sell them at Rs.180 each. There is a big demand for that also as we are selling organic vegetables to our customers through this project", Ratnamalala added.

BoC Doramadalawa branch equipped with all facilities including Automated Teller Machine located in front of Doramadalawa Raja Maha Viharaya has become a vibrant centre for the people in Doramadalawa to get financial assistance to solve their problems.

"We have given different kinds of loans to the tune of Rs.35 million from this branch to upgrade the living standard of the people in Doramadalawa. They have shown a progress in their repayment also during the past few months since we open this new branch", Ratnamalala added.

In the days to come, the BoC will also open 'Divimansala' a centre to guide the villagers to learn the market prices from their village itself so that they can market their crops also at the available market prices.

 

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