Sarvodaya Development Finance continues to empower village entrepreneurs | Sunday Observer

Sarvodaya Development Finance continues to empower village entrepreneurs

Visitors at the ‘Village Biz Festival’ in Colombo.
Visitors at the ‘Village Biz Festival’ in Colombo.

Sarvodaya Development Finance (SDF) committed to empower rural entrepreneurs will conduct a two-day residential workshop at the Sarvodaya higher learning institute in Bangaragama to enhance the knowledge and skills of potential entrepreneurs.

The training program aimed at helping entrepreneurs to improve and market their products locally and internationally will be facilitated by specialists in product development, packaging, marketing, IT, and finance professionals.

The Export Development Board and the private sector will assist in building market linkages for entrepreneurs. The Post-Graduate Institute of Management (PIM), Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging, IT web designers and developers will partner the program.

“The certificate course for entrepreneurs will be conducted in line with Sarvodaya’s mission to empower rural entrepreneurs. We have conducted a series of such programs to develop entrepreneurship in the country, a key factor to develop the rural economy,” Sarvodaya Development Finance Limited Chairman Channa de Silva said.

The organization has planned to hold the ‘Aluth Sahal Mangalaya’ (New Rice Festival) at the Viharamahadevi Park in October where over 40 variants of traditional village based rice will be introduced to Colombo and provide a market to the farming community.

The festival will showcase Ayurveda and various medical aspects, and would promote the consumption of rice instead of bread.

“Our aim is to support rural entrepreneurship by enhancing skills and capabilities of entrepreneurs to meet global markets standards for products based on sustainability, recycling and up-cycling of refuse for social and environmental welfare,” De Silva said.

In line with its vision to help small and medium scale entrepreneurs (SMEs), Sarvodaya Development Finance held a Village Biz Festival’ in Colombo last month where over 150 entrepreneurs from across the country showcased their culinary and ornamental innovations for the local and foreign markets.

Coconut and kurakan ice-cream, other products such as file covers manufactured from discarded plastic, wooden, paper and tree leaves based products were some of the innovations shown at the festival.

The organization also held a ‘Pumpkin Festival’ under the theme ‘Co-exist’ where over 100,000 kgs of pumpkin from the North Central province was sold in Colombo, offering a better price to the farmers.

“A demand and a stable market for pumpkin and pumpkin based products was created in households and hotels in the country by the fest, where a large quantity of the fruit was sold in one day at a higher price. We saw heaps of pumpkin stacked along roads in Anuradhapura fetching around Rs. 2 a fruit. We knew there is a better market for the fruit in Colombo,” De Silva said.

Sarvodaya Development Finance currently operating 51 branches located mostly in rural villages, has focused on empowering entrepreneurs for over 30 years. The organization evolved from deep rooted commitment to nation building and development along the ‘grass roots upwards’ model of its parent, the Sarvodaya Movement. Guided by the social philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and the teachings of Buddhism, Sarvodaya which was founded by Dr. A.T Ariyaratne is currently the oldest non-governmental organization in the country.

“Sarvodaya with its 60-year history realised that empowering villages economically through entrepreneurs is a key factor of economic development. The Credit Plus scheme launched by Sarvodaya had a vital component of exposing people interested in doing business in many industries,” De Silva said adding that the orgainsation where the principle shareholder channels all the profits it makes into social service, pioneered micro finance in Sri Lanka.

In 1987, Sarvodaya micro finance had 170,000 clients. Today, while the Sarvodaya Movement is engaged in its own development activities in villages, Sarvodaya Development Finance (SDF) has launched its own foundation COEXIST focused on empowering village based entrepreneurs and farmers, who are engaged through their products and produce to support sustainability.

“The program will focus on marketing and advertising where IT professionals will educate entrepreneurs on using IT and the internet as a principle tool of marketing and connecting with customers which is most important in current times,” De Silva said.

There will also be certificate awarding ceremony to recognise the commitment of entrepreneurs to sustainability.