JEN started off its activities with emergency assistance for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck southern Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004. Subsequently, we provided assistance to restore the livelihood of victims in the east, which had been doubly damaged by both the tsunami and the conflict. This was followed by our activities to help victims in the north, where the battle intensified towards the end of the conflict.
In Sri Lanka, the conflict between the Sinhalese-based government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Tamil armed group, continued for more than 20 years from the 1980s. A mutual ceasefire agreement was reached in 2002, however, the armed conflict again intensified in the north and in the east after the spring of 2006. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) exceeded 300,000 across the country in March 2007.
The impact of the many years of conflict was extensive, and removing landmines and unexploded shells took time especially in the north. In September 2012, three years after the end of the conflict, many people returned to their hometowns after the Manic Farm (IDP camp) was closed. However, their lands were devastated by the conflict that lasted over 20 years, and many of them became jobless. JEN contributed to peacebuilding by its support activities to restore livelihoods of these returnees in the eastern and northern parts of the country. We began by repairing agricultural wells to sustain the lives of the returnees. The focus of our activities then gradually shifted towards local people’s capacity building, such as establishing agricultural techniques and knowledge as well as spreading know-hows for early recovery from disasters.
With the passage of time, the locals themselves began to build communities that could withstand disasters by taking advantage of the knowledge and skills they had acquired through JEN’s activities and connections between the communities. In December 2017, JEN ended its activities in Sri Lanka.
Reconstruction of communities that had been left behind
In the northern Mullaitivu District, where the battle intensified towards the end of the conflict, people started to return to their homes in July 2010. Accordingly, JEN started off our assistance activities with securing water for returnees who were at home for the first time in decades. To help them restart lives with less worries, we repaired and cleaned wells that had been destroyed and left untreated after the conflict. In addition, we strove to strengthen the community by encouraging each of the residents to participate in the workshops so that they would be able to maintain the repaired wells by themselves.
People who had just returned often focused on maintaining their own lives and had less opportunities to cooperate with their neighbors. Therefore, JEN created opportunities for them to cooperate one another to revitalize their communities. In doing so, we assisted the establishment of a government-approved Agricultural Cooperative Association (hereinafter referred to as Agricultural Cooperative) consisting of returnees in each region to contribute to build residents-oriented communities.
The Agricultural Cooperative in each region held meetings regularly to receive marketing training aimed at increasing their income by selling processed foods and other products. By participating in these activities, the members acquired the skills to negotiate in groups, which led to the revitalization of agriculture in the region. In addition, mutual support among the Agricultural Cooperatives to share issues and supplement market estimates created a synergistic effect, thereby forming a functional network. The acquisition of skills to solve problems through discussion led to the reconstruction of the region and peacebuilding at the grassroots level.
In our activities in the north, JEN supported more than 126,000 people to live self-reliantly over the eight-year period.
Lands in Sri Lanka had been devastated by the conflict and restarting agriculture, on which many people used to make a living, was difficult. Furthermore, the northern, eastern and southeastern parts of the country repeatedly suffered natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and people were forced to restart their lives under a harsh condition affected by both the conflict and natural disasters. In order to improve this situation, JEN constructed agricultural wells and held workshops on agricultural techniques to contribute to the recovery and improvement of residents’ livelihood.
The agricultural wells we had constructed allowed farm work to be carried out even during dry seasons, leading to the improvement of people’s income. In addition, a mechanism was created to continuously maintain and manage the wells through the cooperation of the Agricultural Cooperatives, which had also been established by our assistance. Moreover, in the workshops on agricultural techniques, the residents acquired the skills of distributing and utilizing the seedlings and of marketing to improve productivity and to secure a stable source of income.
In May 2009, the conflict that had lasted for 26 years in the north ended. The following month, JEN started providing emergency assistance including the supply of water at the IDP camp to help the victims restore the foundation for livelihood. After the camp was closed, we carried out support activities for people who had sought refuge at their relatives’ and host families’ homes.
A large-scale flood and landslides occurred in the south over May 24 to 25, 2017, which left 212 being killed and 79 missing, and the number of affected people in the 15 districts totaling some 684,000*. Accordingly, JEN provided emergency assistance to the victims.
On July 10, we began distributing materials to install temporary shelters to families who were forced to evacuate in the southwestern Ratnapura District, where damage was particularly severe. By doing so, we provided the affected people with an environment in which they could live in peace of mind until temporary housing was completed by the government.
Constructing wells for agriculture and strengthening the communities (April 2008–February 2014)
JEN supported the residents of Kiran, Vellaveli and Paddipali in the eastern Batticaloa District to restore livelihood. We constructed agricultural wells to improve their access to water, and distributed crop seedlings to improve productivity and their income from agriculture. We also held workshops and technical training sessions to strengthen the communities and help the people pursue not only efficiency but also sustainable agriculture by themselves even after our activities ended.
During the six years we supported about 41,000 returnees to stand back on their feet, and in February 2014 we ended our activities in the east.
Nutrition/health and hygiene assistance (April–October 2008)
While people slowly returned to their homes, some of them, especially those who were vulnerable like infants, pregnant women and the elderly, had health issues such as malnutrition caused by not being able to take the necessary nutrients and waterborne diseases arising from unsanitary environment. JEN focused on these issues: we distributed 18 types of seeds and fruit seedlings mainly to female householders and low income earners, and taught them environment-friendly and low-cost agricultural methods. In addition, we distributed guide books on nutrition and hygiene, which explained, for example, cooking methods to improve the nutrient content of food, to lead healthy lives, aiming to spread them not only to the returnees but also to the entire community.
Counseling (April–October 2008)
In parallel with nutrition/health and hygiene assistance, JEN’s psychiatrists and social workers visited residents to listen to their anxiety and problems in daily life and provided individual counseling as necessary. We also provided the children with extracurricular activities to help them forget hard times of the past and regain positive attitudes. Many children participated in our sports and drawing classes.
The Capacity building of the fishery union (April–October 2008)
JEN assisted the Fisheries Cooperative Association (hereinafter referred to as the Fishery Cooperatives) in the east to restart their operation after it became a victim of the conflict and the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in December 2004. To allow the just returned cooperative members to get back to work right away, we distributed fishing boats they could share and also built a multi-purpose community hall. Moreover, we provided members with workshops on leadership, awareness for restarting lives, improvement of the quality of life, and fishery products marketing. In the workshops, we promoted the entire community’s capacity building so that all local residents would benefit from the assets the Fishery Cooperatives had accumulated by effectively utilizing them and responsibly managing them.
Vegetable farming (April 2006–December 2007)
Agriculture used to flourish in the Hambantota District, which was hit hard by the tsunami. There had been a high percentage of farmers before the district was hit by the tsunami, however, many of the victims stayed jobless with no income even one year after the disaster. Accordingly, JEN helped agriculture to resume so that the residents would be able to restart lives with less worries. We not only distributed seeds and seedlings, but also held workshops on organic farming, from which a high return was expected at low cost.
Organic farming techniques include making organic fertilizers using home waste called “compost,” making organic pesticides using herbs around the houses, controlling the insect pests, replanting the seedlings, and effective watering, among others. These techniques were new to local farmers, but once familiarized they could be spread to the neighboring villages by, for example, supplying compost and conducting workshops. Therefore, constructive results could be expected not only in the target villages but also in the surrounding areas.
The techniques helped the locals learn sustainable vegetable farming for the medium- to long-term restoration of livelihoods.
Fishing net knitting (April 2005–April 2008)
JEN periodically held fishing net knitting workshops for victims who were living on fishery. The produced fishing nets became a property of the Fishery Cooperatives, so that they would be available to its members. The work of knitting fishing nets together deepened the bonds between the members, and by learning the method of knitting the members gained a sense of achievement and confidence. Also, while they were engaged in the manual work, social workers healed their mental scars, which helped them begin to feel in peace little by little. Sharing their feelings at the workshops allowed them to overcome anxiety and frustration and to live positively.
Psychological counseling and extracurricular activities for the children (April 2005–September 2007)
From April 2005 to March 2006, JEN’s social workers provided psychological counseling to the victims of the tsunami. The shock of the disaster caused some of the victims to stay at home. We encouraged such victims to join our group activities. Participants told us that their emotions were healed by sharing pain with other victims and that they were able to regain hope.
In addition, from October 2006 to September 2007, we offered extracurricular activities such as everyday sports to some 50 children affected by the disaster. The activities helped the children burst out their emotions in sports and games, healing the wounds of their hearts caused by the painful memories of the tsunami. Children who were scared of the sound of the waves immediately after the disaster gradually regained the courage to go to the seashore through participating in the play.
Making coconut-related products (April 2005–March 2006)
In Sri Lanka, products using coconut fibers, which are cheaply available locally, are utilized in various situations in daily life. The people affected by the tsunami acquired the techniques to make coconut-related products in groups; they learned how to make brooms and brushes among other products using coconut fibers. JEN received a strong request from them to acquire the knowledge of sales channels and distribution in order to derive a good income from their products, so we invited a marketing professional to hold workshops.
Emergency assistance immediately after the Indian Ocean tsunami (December 2004–March 2005)
The Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004, killed more than 30,000 people in Sri Lanka. JEN dispatched its staff members the day after the tsunami occurred.
To meet the needs of the victims of the tsunami who had difficulties both mentally and materially, JEN decided to provide emergency assistance by distributing supplies such as food, water and daily necessities. In the southern Hambantota District, where damage was severe, we distributed supplies to 2,000 households for about 10,000 people.
|Country Name||Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka|
|Capital||Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte|
|Population||21.03 million approx. (2016)|
|Ethnicity||Sinhalese, Tamils, and Sri Lankan Moors|
|Languages||Official languages: Sinhalese and Tamil; Common language: English|
|Religions||Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Roman Catholicism|