Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+) Project

The LEED+ project builds on successes of the Local Empowerment through Economic Development (LEED) Project. From 2011-2018, LEED has helped to reduce poverty, create sustainable jobs and build the peace in northern Sri Lanka.

Local economic growth has been inclusive, and generated sustainable incomes for persons with disabilities, men, women, and youth. Their livelihoods and jobs has created a resilience to external shocks.

Decent work opportunities, stable jobs and enhanced earnings have empowered the most vulnerable and marginalized in post-conflict villages. Strengthening the rural economy has proved effective in decreasing fragility and promoting reconciliation within and between communities.


The LEED approach has proven effective in post-conflict economic recovery and promoting reconciliation. In its new phase, LEED+ will up-scale its sustainable livelihood development through a market-based approach. The market-based approach identifies, addresses and removes system-level constraints inhibiting the growth of more inclusive markets for the benefit of poor women and men.

Ten percent of the population in the North of Sri Lanka is comprised of persons with disabilities (PWD) who are at a high risk of poverty and social exclusion. Many are of working age but face significant obstacles in the world of work, ranging from attitudinal and physical to informational barriers.

Women with disabilities experience discrimination, on the grounds of both their gender and impairment. Based on LEED successes, the project will promote equal opportunities by providing practical solutions for cooperatives and MSMEs to address concurrently issues of gender and disability. This includes assessing specific needs, upgrading skills and capacity, enhancing access to financial and other support services, encouraging participation in the supply chain and ensuring representation in management. A gender and disability responsive value chain analysis provides the basis for capacity building and leadership training for women and PWD.

The interventions addressing specific constraints to growth will open gates through which large numbers of participants in key economic sectors would benefit. Creating market linkages and introducing producer groups into value chains will help strengthen private sector partnerships and bring in investments. The LEED-initiated review of policies and cooperative by-laws will continue, to create an enabling environment for wider impact on the broader target group. Facilitated reviews will help document attitudinal changes in relation to equity measures adopted in cooperative boards and allocations.

The impact of the market approach is sustained and scaled outcomes. Thereby the project will achieve lasting change among both public and private actors by playing on their incentive and capacity to adopt new ways of working, so impact continues long after the project has ended. With constraints to economic growth removed, change can be replicated and mainstreamed across sectors rather than only be confined to the individual actors the project is working directly with.

Partners: Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, Department of Cooperatives, Department of Agriculture, Department of Fisheries, Cooperatives, Producer Organizations, National Chamber of Exporters, Sea Food Exporters Association, District and Provincial Departments

Target Beneficiaries: 3,000 conflict-affected households with high vulnerability including female-headed households, ex-combatants, conflict-affected youth and persons with disabilities

Regional Focus: Mannar, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Anuradhapura Districts


Economic activity and structures essential to link livelihoods, jobs and people needed rebuilding from the bottom-up in the North. The end of return to places of origin for people displaced by conflict signalled a turning point in their lives. In addition to years of neglect of the traditional resources and sources of livelihood, resettled communities encountered new dynamics.

The communities from interior villages in districts of the region were most vulnerable owing to having had no market opportunities during the past decades. Post-resettlement many had to rebuild homes and lives—as single-headed families, war-widows, and ex-combatants; and faced with physical disabilities, stigma and distrust from within and outside their community.

Instituting quick gains in post-conflict recovery through an ILO-led response needed the conflict-affected to be engaged in decent work. The requisite to create sustainable job opportunities through diverse income generating activities - in the fishery, vegetable and fruit sectors specific to the geo-locations informed the type and scale of interventions.


If grass root communities involved in rural livelihoods such as farming and fishery had advantages of collective bargaining, the groups could better compete with large companies in the sector. In the absence of trade unions in the north, a key constituent of ILO tripartism, support to farmers and fishers to form cooperatives gave long-term economic and social benefits. To manage cooperatives, membership, and leadership, both men and women needed support with improved access to knowledge and skills. Cooperatives further needed sensitization to be inclusive in its growth. To run cooperatives as social enterprises and do business continuity planning needed capacity building.

An enabling environment with needed economic infrastructure led the project to develop inclusive supply chains, strong partnerships and representation at national level. Under such sustainable employment creation populations are more likely to achieve economic well-being, decision-making power and social cohesion.

Empowering people through decent work and sustainable livelihoods helps to reduce the North-South development gap and perceptions of inequality. Full integration into economic and social society diminishes the re-occurrence of conflict.

Main objectives

  • To improve productivity, efficiency, and quality of products produced by cooperative societies (Coops), macro-, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) and processed food sectors
  • To increase women’s participation and people with disabilities in decision-making in MSMEs and Coops
  • To facilitate adoption of the LEED approach or its elements into development programmes by national, provincial and local ministries, departments, institutions and private sector organizations