Women farmers in Sri Lanka face a host of challenges. In particular, they tend to specialize in less advantageous value chains and to limit their involvement within those value chains to a few specific aspects, such as crops. Since farming is often a family business, the men make most of the decisions. In addition, because women are involved in less lucrative agricultural activities, they often have to seek out other sources of income.
In support of the SANASA Movement, DID is leading a project to establish an Entrepreneur Financial Expertise Center (SEFEC) to help women organize themselves and become better informed. This will enable them to focus on value-added agricultural production using the resources that already exist in their region.
The production of organic manure is one of the project's success stories. Obtaining organic manure is difficult and is one of the main problems identified in agricultural value chains. To overcome this obstacle, women from the Kandepola cooperative, who live in a region with all of the resources needed for organic manure production, were given technical training in order to produce and market quality organic manure. Following the training, 12 women set up a group enterprise, and they have already received their first order from rice growers in Rambukkana.
Another challenge related to developing the value chain is locating quality seeds for traditional rice production. Thanks to this project, a group of women from the Polgahawela cooperative are organizing themselves to meet this market need. They have already been given technical training as part of the project and plan to launch their production soon.
Encouraging of undercropping and crop diversification are key aspects to improving risk and liquidity management. As a way of offsetting the financial deficit during the low season and improve land productivity, gotu kola, a plant used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, and cut foliage, which is exported for floral arrangements, have been introduced to women as crops to be added to the rice and pepper value chains.
Women members of SANASA and part of the Uthamavi association have started a business to market these undercrops after receiving technical training from the SEFEC. A company that exports gotu kola is even helping these women entrepreneurs earn organic certification.