Since 2015, ACTED and its partner Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) have been implementing a project aimed at strengthening the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in promoting inclusive social development as part of a multi-actor effort in Moneragala, Batticaloa and Mullaithivu districts in Sri Lanka (see map). 20 CSOs have been selected through an election process in each district to become beneficiaries of the project, for a total of 60 CSO participants.
Among those, Ekamuthu Welfare Environmental Society was elected by the community in Kotabowa GN, Medagama Divisional Secretariat, Monaragala district. Their primary objective as a CSO is to preserve the Nilagala forest reserve next to their village.
Ekamuthu Welfare Environmental Society of Kotabowa was established in 2005, with 20 initial members. Today, they have 122 members from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. To give equal opportunities to all groups, the appointed board members are both Buddhist Sinhalese and Muslim. Members come from five villages around Kotabowa, where the CSO is also represented through sub-committees comprising 15 to 20 members.
Bandara, a 65-year old farmer and the chairman of the CSO, explains: “Most of our members are farmers who cultivate paddy and other crops using rain water. Being farmers, we have a very close relationship with nature and the environment.”
Protecting and preserving the environment is one of the CSO’s main objectives. To achieve this, they actively work on reforestation of river banks. Protecting the Nilgala forest reserve helps to preserve water in the area for daily consumption and cultivation
A large part of ACTED’s project focused on strengthening the organisational capacities of CSOs. Bandara’s CSO received training on governance and administration, organisational management, financial management, project cycle management, resource mobilization and external relations, as well as proposal development.
The project also provided better equipment to this CSO for performing their daily tasks.
Salabdeen, the treasurer, says, “Now we have our own office equipped with the furniture provided by ACTED. We now maintain all the necessary documents and have very clean records of all the transactions and minutes of the meetings. We also know that our financial reports should be audited through an external auditor for transparency and accountability.”
These changes constitute a major improvement for the Ekamuthu Welfare Environmental Society.
Before our training on organisational development, we were functioning the CSO with very basic knowledge and few documents. We did not have a place to keep our documents and to have meetings. We always used the village community hall for everything
Kamalawathi, who is an active female member of the CSO, says, “Thanks to ACTED and the project, we now have a very strong relationship with government officers in the area and region. Through the training provided by government officers trained by ACTED, we learned many things and built strong relationships with them. We, together with government officers, identified the common issues in the area and prepared the village development plan in order to address these issues.”
To explain their achievements through the project activities, Kamalawathi adds that, “Now we have the ability to influence government officers in the village and DS office in decision making in terms of the development of the area. They now practice the participatory decision making in relation to welfare and development of the area.”
As part of ACTED’s project, Ekamuthu Welfare Environmental Society of Kotabowa has prepared a project proposal for providing safe drinking water for all the members of the community. They plan to build a well and install a modern filtration system to provide safe drinking water at a nominal price. Profits will be used to provide preventive maintenance and sustain this project in the long term. If production exceeds the community’s consumption needs, access to safe drinking water will also be extended to nearby communities at a nominal price. They even have plans to establish a bottled drinking water plant in the future if this project succeeds.
The potential benefits of such a project go beyond the provision of safe drinking water, as it could help eradicate chronic kidney disease from the area. This short CSO project has been approved by ACTED and will be implemented by the CSO with ACTED’s guidance over the next few months.
We are now a better CSO that can do many things for the betterment of the community. ACTED’s project has strengthened the unity among the members of our CSO. Bandara intends to support “a second generation of leadership among young members who can serve the community in the future
This project has been made possible thanks to the support of European Commission
We would also like to thank our partner who contributes to the implementation of the project
*All names have been changed throughout this case study
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are thesole responsibility of and do not necessarily reflect the views of theEuropean Union