A Village and A Vision: Agriculture in Sri Lanka
The Mankulam Agro Project is a multi-faceted initiative to rebuild a village struggling spiritually, educationally, and economically, which we expect will be a replicable model to create sustainable and wholistic transformation through business.
Ambalpuram in Mankulam is one of many poor villages in the Mullaitivu District in Sri Lanka. This village of over 315 families has a poorly maintained roadway with no public transport to the nearest town Mankulam 10km away. The population of Ambalpuram is 90% Hindu with a small Christian church and community present.
These farmers were each given a plot of two acres or less when they were resettled after the war. Farming in small lands is not a big income earning opportunity. Moreover, when one crop fails their situation becomes worse as they do not have the means to re-cultivate. Whenever the harvest is large, the prices come down, which affects them more than having a bad harvest. In general, the people of these people are stuck to what they are doing even though they are not rewarding enough.
The existing economic systems are such that the poorer farmers are always confined to a cycle of disadvantage from which they are unable to break free. A successful economy is a system of production, distribution and consumption that makes efficient use of all available resources for the benefit of all stakeholders of that economy.
Pastor Ashley Moni is a man with a vision. He has lived overseas in several countries including in the USA but has always had a vision of helping poor communities achieve wholistic transformation through the power and outworking of the Gospel of the Kingdom. In 2019 He participated in a PW Train the Trainer program conducted by our local partner NCEASL and immediately commenced working with three rural communities in various parts of the country. His strategy was to train and build teams that would utilize raw material and resources available in the community to create economically viable enterprises that would be an engine for transformation of the community.
One of those three villages was Ambalpuram in Mankulam where he found an abundance of resources but a lack of vision and capacity. While working to build the team in Ambalpuram the first lockdown caused by COVID-19 occurred in March 2020. As a result, he was embedded in the village for three months, and has continued to live there to date. During this time Pastor Ashley was able to identify the natural resources available locally and test production of over 10 processed food items. Then the second COVID-19 wave struck in September, resulting in a lockdown which continued until December and still continues to affect travel in many regions. As a result, the villagers faced severe economic hardship with most families unable to have three full meals a day. Pastor Ashley responded by providing a nutritional meal for around 25 children to ward off malnutrition with the help of some personal supporters.
In January 2021 Pastor Ashley launched a 100-day plan to resume his work with the community.
This includes daily production and sales of cookies which is the initial product he has chosen of the many, to develop the production and sales processes. He has currently employed 3 youths from the village and they work as a team in both manufacturing and sales.
We at Partners Worldwide are working to support this initiative by providing access to a business mentor, as well as seed money for capital investments required for kitchen and production equipment and the initial operational expenses. This is a great example of how a partnership with a faith-based local community institution created a catalyst through the PW Microenterprise Train the Trainer program resulting in a trainer who is now a business owner who is mobilizing a community, while also focusing on evangelism, discipleship, community development to create a wholistic model of transformation. PW is also working to mobilize business mentors and subject matter experts to come along our local partner and Pastor Ashley as well as raising necessary funds to help Pastor Ashley develop this business initiative further.
What is unique about this initiative is that in addition to helping the farmers obtain a fair price for their products, creating employment for youth in the village through the processed food product manufacture and sales, Pastor Ashley is also focused on helping the farmers improve through crop diversification, introduction of better agricultural practices as well as education for the children and youth, community mobilization and spiritual enrichment, resulting in a community transformed by the truth of the Gospel.