Advancing decent work in the rural economy through cooperatives in post-conflict Northern Province in Sri Lanka

News | 20 June 2018
Participants of the session
On 11 June 2018, the ILO’s DEVINVEST Branch and COOP Unit organized a session on “Advancing decent work in rural economies through cooperatives in post-conflict Northern Province in Sri Lanka” presented by the National Coordinator of the Local Economic Empowerment and Development (LEED) Project, Nihal Devagiri.

The LEED project was conceived as a long term sustainable response to the post-conflict challenges facing the country after 30 years of internal conflict. Funded by the government of Australia, the project has been implemented in the Northern Province of the country since 2011. The project’s main objective has been to create employment and increase income opportunities for the vulnerable and poor communities, especially widows.

A rapid assessment at the project’s onset revealed that, although cooperatives suffered from 30 years of conflict, they were the only “stable” structures remaining in its aftermath. They have not only been present in Northern Sri Lanka across time but also played a central role in providing humanitarian assistance during the conflict. As such they presented a key entry point to creating sustainable income generation opportunities for the war torn communities in the region. Therefore, a key intervention model of the project was built on strengthening existing cooperatives in the agriculture and fishery sectors and establishing market links for their products.

Participants of the session
The project strengthened cooperatives capacities by shifting their focus to being more demand driven. This was facilitated by linking the farmers’ and fishers’ cooperatives with exporters in Southern Sri Lanka. The two main cooperative products that have benefited from such market links are papaya and crabmeat. In 2017, papaya production and exports generated over USD 340,000 annual income for the cooperatives involved, whereas crab processing and exports have contributed more than USD 2 million to the local economy since the cooperatives started exporting. In addition, the project has played an important role in advancing women’s economic rights through their participation in the cooperatives as producers and as workers. The project has also worked on improving the policy and legislative environment for cooperatives.

For more information, see the presentation and project documents below.