Creating model villages
Panama, Sri Lanka – This beleaguered fishing community has been designated a "model coastal village", chosen to introduce an FAO approach to improving livelihoods in impoverished, tsunami-stricken areas. Thanks to the generosity of donors, US$5.6 million has been set aside to help 14 Sri Lankan villages become models of what is possible when communities stop being dependent on a single economic activity and engage in a mix of livelihoods.
Working closely with villagers, Ricerca e Cooperazione, an Italian NGO, has already conducted a two-week livelihood study into Panama`s potential, identifying such possible activities as aquaculture, home gardens, small enterprises and boat and fishing gear repair.
The next step is for FAO experts to examine the proposals and award contracts for NGOs to help the villages launch the economic activities that have the most promise.
Panama needs help: although 72 fishing boats were damaged by the tsunami, assistance loans were received for the repair of only 15 vessels. The tsunami altered the local ecosystem to the extent that crocodiles have invaded the area.
"One woman died from a crocodile attack. We are afraid to fish in the lagoon," says H. Tabasiri, who heads the fishing cooperative.
Even as Panama moves towards becoming a development model for other villages, FAO has distributed rice seeds, water pumps and fertilizer, and has organized training on land reclamation, pest management and nutrition.
"FAO is the number one agency for cooperation with us," says area Deputy Director for Agriculture P.M. Dayaratne. "FAO cooperates with those of us working in the government sector."
Drawing on its neutral UN status, FAO also negotiated government approval for distributing maize and rice seed to hundreds of tsunami-displaced Tamil farmers and fishers in a Tamil Tiger enclave near Panama, the first such aid they received, apart from temporary housing.
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