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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Meet Siriyawathie: mother, farmer, and community leader

Siriyawathie is a 40 year old mother of two hardworking children, a son and a daughter. She lives in Pettagamwela, Sri Lanka with her husband, a carpenter. The majority of his monthly wages goes to buying food and paying tuition fees for his son, studying technology in grade 13, and daughter, studying in grade 11.

Siriyawathie has always been a leader in her community: she was a founding member of a small group of villagers from her area who have worked together for several years. However, with training and support provided by HOPE International Development Agency, Siriyawathie has been able to take even greater strides forward. She received training in bookkeeping and conservation farming, as well as a small loan of around $65. With this, she set up a small organic farm where she daily puts into practice the composting, soil conservation, and other techniques she learned about.

Her success has been tremendous.

At various times of the year, Siriyawathie and her family grow tomatoes, bitter gourd, capsicum, cowpea, lentils, and beans. She understands what crops can be planted at drier times and still do well, so she grows crops year-round.

Siriyawathie sells her surplus fruits and vegetables, all chemical-free, earning about $50 per month. There is a strong demand for her produce as it is all chemical-free and widely known to be so in the area. Her own family eats the produce, contributing to continued good health and higher savings since they used to have to buy vegetables.

Her children’s tuition is always paid, and Siriyawathie has proved her continued commitment to her neighbours: she shares her seed with other farmers in her village so that they do not need to buy expensive imported seed which cannot be reused in subsequent planting seasons.

Siriyawathie values most the opportunity she has now to work collectively with her peers in the community, in small self-help groups.

She says all this has been achieved with the greatest possible support from her family – her husband and two children – and from HOPE International Development Agency.