Creating Decent Work in Rural Sri Lanka through Building Resilience for Climate Driven Disasters

ILO looks into means of increased resilience of disaster affected tea sector communities, farmers and MSMEs in Ratanapura, Kalutara and Kilinochchi districts.

The risk for climate related disasters and shocks will remain high in the coming years. However, collective action to help change and modify this risk is still lacking and the time frame is still uncertain. Overall the action to change the fundamentals behind climate related disasters still suffers from lack of adequate commitment. In 2016, the Sri Lanka was ranked the 4th most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. However, unfortunately the country was “upgraded” to second position three months back. Global action is needed but this will take time. In the meantime at the local level, we need to manage these disasters and ensure that their impacts are kept to an absolute minimal.

In the past three years floods alone have cost the country more than USD 5 billion. The direct cost of droughts, landslides haven’t been estimated. The overall costs of climate change include economic, social and environmental impacts which are inter-related. When a disaster hits an area, it hampers the local economic development, productivity, jobs and livelihoods, and human and environmental wellbeing. In districts like Kilinochchi, where the poverty rates are already high, disasters further impoverish the communities, putting them into deeper jeopardy from where poor individuals have difficulties ever to recover. In districts like Ratnapura, Galle, Kalutara and Matara where a combination of urban and rural communities live, economic production, specially the tea plantations, has been severely affected by floods. The damage to tea growing areas from floods in these districts was so severe in 2016 and 2017 that they actually impacted national economic growth. Needless to say that all the companies and people relying on the tea sector for their livelihoods would be severely affected and may even cease to exist if these climate related events become an annual occurrence. Moreover, it is no longer possible to differentiate areas which are affected by floods or droughts only since many of Sri Lankan districts are vulnerable for both floods and droughts based on the daily rainfall. Localized droughts in the south western region and the recent floods in the north are good examples. Thus, in the previous a few years, the disasters have been identified as one of the key reasons for the slower economic growth . Further, the disasters widen the income disparity between different segments of the society .

For Sri Lanka as a country, the work it could do to mitigate this globally controlled process is pintsized. However, improved preparedness and adaptation would help curtail the impacts arising from the different natural disasters. Through increased resilience, rural communities will be able to recover from these annual shocks quicker and better. In this light, the International Labour Organization (ILO) together with Ministry of Plantation Industries, Ministry of Agriculture, Disaster Management Centre and some other government partners at district level initiated this project under the ILO flagship programme, Jobs for Peace and Resilience to support the tea sector, farmer communities and MSMEs affected in the northern province and south-western region of the country. The project is aimed at developing a model, validated through work on the ground which will mitigate the impacts of drought and flooding. This will happen through better management of available water resources with the view of building increased resilience of these rural communities.

The second national workshop for updating stakeholders on progress of the project and validating generated information will be held on the 1st of March, 2019 at the Mövenpick Hotel, Colombo 3 from 9 am to 1 pm. It is expected that wide range of stakeholders of the project including ILO constituents, other government agencies, private sector, civil society organisations and UN agencies among others will attend this knowledge dissemination event and share their experiences.