An Outsider’s View of the East

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The sequel November 11, 12,A?A?13th

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image001Paper making factories.

Both my visits to the field involved visiting paper making A?a??E?factoriesA?a??a??. I quickly realised that they were really what we would call a workshop.

Hand made paper is in high demand and its a good product for rural areas as its relatively cheap to transport. ItA?a??a??s also relatively easy to develop value added products made out of paper which primarily women can do from home.

DwDN is involved because both the projects involve focusing on working with disabled people especially women and making the projects disability sensitive. Certainly the buildings in both projects are accessible and you can see the photos of the ramp in one of them.

However both have been fraught with practical difficulties that its hard to manage from a great distance.

One has problems with the water supply and the other has problems getting the right current of electricity. Combine that with one of the projects only having one year of funding ( no mean thing to set up a new business from scratch in a year and then make in sustainable- it just doesnt seem a sensible way of using funds, especially when there has been such a big capital investment).

The issues around funding are just the same here as in the UK, funders with their own agenda, short term funding, hard for very small grass roots organisations to access funding.

As I think I may be fundraising for these projects it was good for me to get a sense of what the challenges are, but they are also the kind of projects which funders like trusts are more likely to find than our network.



image0021Some machinery at the paper making workshop and aboveA?A? some of the workers

image016Above is the workshop building near Batticaloa, the soil is sandy as it is very near the coast


The garden of the DESMIO office, the NGO that is supporting one of the paper making workshops, showing their well.

The meeting there was in sinahla and tamil, with a bit of English thrown in, so tookA?A? a while to make sure everyone has understoood.

Travelling in the Eastern province.

The Eastern Province only came under government control just over a year ago so the security situation is still fragile.

We could only enter the province with a permit, which we had to get at the A?a??E?borderA?a??a?? This then had to be shown at all check points. We were only actually stopped at three and then only one were the bags searchedA?A? (not mine as a foreigners dont experience the worst of it) On other days peopleA?A? we knowA?A? had worse experiences and travelling by ordinary bus can be very difficult.

Driving to Battilacoa there was lots of evidence of the recent conflict, with many derelict houses with bullet holes visible. There was also evidence of resettlement with plots of land being fenced off, corrugated iron shacks put up and some with half built brick houses at the front. The government gives money for materials for house building, but families have to rebuild themselves. Those few miles in from the border, there still didnA?a??a??t seem to be much cultivation, the land is fertile but needs irrigation.

All along the roads were sentry posts, often just one soldier, these seemed very isolated, but at least they were sheltered from the sun.

Driving through villages has a different feel, because there are fewer buddhist temples, more Hindu temples and some mosques. A couple of towns on the east coast driving to Ampara were majority moslem and one town had a magnificent structure with four posts at a crossroads and the four small minerets on top.

People in the east still have limited travelling opportunities so doing any business development and finding markets is very difficult. The east suffered badly from the Tsunami and the tourist industry is now non existent so not surprisingly many international donors are focusing more on the east.

Much as I would have liked to have photos, there wasnt really the opportunity , anyway, sometimes its just important to be in the moment.

On leaving Ampara we also had to get a permit as the security forces like to know which vehicles have entered and which are leaving the area. They also check the registration and the chassis no connect as stolen vehicles often find their way into the east.

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