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Nurturing Fields, Nurturing Lives in Sri Lanka's Dry Zone': Luxmi's Fight for Prosperity


View the original on UNDP Sri Lanka's website here.

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for Mrs. Gnansekaram Luxmi, a mother of four daughters, residing in the Thuddavahaikulam village in the Cheddiukulam DS Division in Vavuniya. Located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, it is one of the target areas under the Climate Resilient Integrated Water Management Project (CRIWMP) or ‘Wew Gam Pubuduwa’. Approximately 90% of individuals in this district are engaged in agriculture as their primary occupation, including large-scale and small-scale farmers. Among these, small-scale farmers in particular are severely affected by natural disasters, lack of fertilizer, and reduced access to marketing facilities. In addition, the destruction of natural forests has resulted in low groundwater levels and changes in rainfall have also been observed.

In 1990, due to the prolonged civil war, Luxmi went to India as a refugee and was detained in a refugee camp. In 2003, she got married in India and returned to Sri Lanka in 2004 with her husband. 

When she returned to Sri Lanka, they had no property except a bare land in the Thudduvahai village. They built a temporary house and carried out small-scale farming, selling their produce to local shops and neighbours for their livelihood. However, this was not a stable source of income as their agricultural practices were continually disrupted by natural disasters, lack of access to market opportunities, fertilizer shortages, and increases in the price of rice.

In 2020, Luxmi’s husband was diagnosed with kidney failure in one kidney and damage in the other. He required medication for his condition and travelled to the District General Hospital for monthly treatment. Due to his condition, he has been unable to engage in farming activities, resulting in the burden of managing the household falling entirely on Luxmi.

Due to this, Luxmi faces many difficulties in raising her daughters and meeting their food and educational expenses.

Luxmi revealed, “In 2018, During this difficult time, our family was selected as one of the 19 beneficiaries through the CRIWMP Project. In the initial stage of the project, it was difficult to get used to the agricultural advice provided and to change our systems once. But, day by day as per the technical advice, we planted different types of seedlings such as mango, coconut, jack, guava, and pomegranate, which were donated by the project.  At present, due to the systematic planting of trees, small grains (black gram, cowpea, ground nut, etc.) are cultivated as OFC (Other Field Crops) according to the season. Not only this, we cultivate different types of vegetables to meet the production cost from the price resistance. As a result, we can cultivate all through the season by following the crop planning calendar, which helps us overcome the current economic crisis.”

A key component of CRIWMP is ensuring Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), particularly among smallholder farmers in this area. The main outputs of CSA in the project are as follows:
1. Increasing cropping intensity (CI)
2. Providing technical knowledge and implementation support to 36,585 beneficiaries 
3. Increasing women’s participation in farming by 51% 

Luxmi further noted, “As the agricultural land is located in the outer town, which is under the Thudduvakaikulam Tank downstream area, during the rainy season, the flood water causes soil erosion in the cropland. Due to soil erosion, we could not cultivate during those rainy seasons. However, after the intervention of the project, we learnt to make earth bunds to keep our crops safe from soil erosion, and cultivation is currently possible even during the rainy season. Our crops are safe due to the timely provision of weather forecasting and early warning measures throughout the project."

"Earlier, fences with dry sticks were erected around the cultivation area.  After clarifying the benefits of bio-fencing from the project, 200 “Gliricidia” sticks were distributed and planted around the cultivation land. Due to this, the impact of diseases and pests has reduced and Gliricidia leaves are used for compost making," she said.

Luxmi further highlighted that "along with farming, we rear cows, goats, and poultry for our livelihood.  When the government imposed the fertilizer ban, agriculture was affected completely, and all the farmers struggled to manage their household needs.  Nonetheless, it was possible for us to overcome the fertilizer, fuel, and economic crises. We sold milk and earned LKR 30,000.00 per month to help mitigate the impacts of the crises.  We were trained in bookkeeping by the project and we now maintain records accordingly to keep track of our income status daily, monthly, and annually."

"In 2020, a bio Gas system was provided by the project to help us to manage the LP Gas crisis. Liquid compost, which is waste from Bio-Gas, is used as a compost for the crops. The project also encouraged us to cultivate traditional organic rice varieties and our family has healthy rice for meals now. Currently, organic rice is also unaffordable, and the market value is high, which allows us to earn more," she noted.

Luxmi continues, "Due to my husband’s illness, I am the breadwinner of my family and I carry out farming alone and earn an income. With the interventions of the project, I am able to manage my family and I take this opportunity to thank the Government, UNDP, and PALM for initiating the CRIWMP project and their tremendous support to uplift our lives.” 


CRIWMP is implemented by the Government of Sri Lanka with technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Green Climate Fund. 

  • SDG 13