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Ripples of difference: Empowering communities through sustainable water practices

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In the rich tapestry of Sri Lanka's history, ancient civilizations developed hydraulic engineering systems over 2,000 years ago. Today, these reservoirs, comprising over 1,000 cascades and 15,000 small tanks, remain integral to rural communities, sustaining livelihoods and ensuring food security amidst modern challenges. However, according to the UNDP, approximately one- third of the population faces vulnerability and deprivation concerning water sources.

Communities in the dry zone consistently grapple with water scarcity, with the issue being particularly acute in the Northern region due to disparities in water equity and accessibility. In response to this challenge, a coalition of leading INGOs and NGOs, including ACTED and We Effect, joined forces with support from The Coca-Cola Foundation.

The coalition sought to empower communities in the Monaragala, Anuradhapura, and Batticaloa regions. Prior to their intervention, communities grappled with the difficult reality of water scarcity. "We relied on well water and reservoirs, even for drinking," shares a resident, highlighting the severity of the situation.

We Effect, with funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, undertook initiatives in Thammennawa village to enhance irrigation and drinking water quality while empowering the community. This involved rejuvenating century-old reservoirs, increasing water capacity, and enabling year-round cultivation on 200 acres, benefiting 476 families.

Over 300 women were integrated into the village Farmer Cooperative Society, with 100 undergoing entrepreneurship training, leading to
significant improvements in water availability, agricultural productivity, and women's economic empowerment.

Additionally, We Effect spearheaded the revitalization of three reservoirs in Batticaloa, further expanding access to water and ensuring clean drinking water for over 1,000 families. Mayooran Thevasigamany, Country Director for We Effect Sri Lanka, stated, “Through a cooperative approach championing women's leadership, this initiative has fortified farmers' primary cooperatives, expanded access to agrarian water to more than 3,500 families, and ensured clean drinking water for over 1,000 families. It stands as a beacon of women's entrepreneurship development, providing increased economic opportunities, and has elevated waste management practices in our selected communities.

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ACTED Sri Lanka's projects, such as the Samurdhi Tank initiative, significantly impacted local agriculture and community livelihoods. With increased water volume and improved irrigation methods, farmers experienced 16% income increase, benefiting 400 households.

The projects also fostered strong community engagement, with a 40% rise in Water Resources Development Society membership, showcasing the organization's dedication to sustainable water management and community development.

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"We are excited to be part of a coalition that has successfully brought together multiple partners to empower communities”, Saadia Madsbjerg, President of The Coca-Cola Foundation, expressed.

“At The Coca-Cola Foundation, our goal is to continue making a measurable and lasting impact for communities, contributing to ripples of positive change in Sri Lanka.'"

The success story of rejuvenating Sri Lanka's water reservoirs stands as a testament to the power of collaborative efforts. "We urge fellow private sector entities to unite with us in driving positive change, emphasizing that the impact extends beyond individual communities to shape the destiny of an entire nation.

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Together, let's make a meaningful impact in the lives of many today and pave the way for a brighter future for generations to come”, Lea Schumacher from ACTED calls.

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