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Sri Lanka: Restoring Livelihoods in Conflict Zones

Last Updated: Sept 2009
Sri Lanka: Restoring Livelihoods in Conflict Zones


Sri Lanka’s 30-year war between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam devastated nearly two-thirds of the population of its Northern and Eastern provinces. Most aspects of life suffered—people were displaced, institutions disintegrated, and essential irrigation schemes were damaged. People could no longer access markets as they once had and the transport of goods virtually came to a halt. Once-industrious communities that had produced lush harvests of rice, vegetables, fruits, and other crash crops lost their comfortable lifestyles and became impoverished.


The IDA-financed Second Northeast Irrigated Agriculture Project launched in 2004 with the objective of helping conflict-affected communities in the Northern and Eastern provinces and adjoining areas to restore their livelihoods, enhance agricultural production, increase incomes, and build capacity for sustainable social and economic integration. The project was restructured in 2007 and named The Reawakening Project to adopt a community-driven development approach. Communities were then given the responsibility to plan, design, and implement small-scale infrastructure and livelihood activities.


Over 500 villages—and 1.25 million households—in the conflict-affected areas have been organized into community-based institutions and are benefiting from new community and productive infrastructure (rehabilitated irrigation schemes, linkage roads and bridges, water wells, marketing centers, drainage schemes, multipurpose buildings, and so on).

- Voice and choice restored. The project is re-building self-esteem and renewed confidence among victims of conflict and displaced people by giving them voice (though their village institutions) and choice (through the planning and implementation of their own Village Development Plans and their livelihoods activities)

- Newly productive land. More than 35,000 hectares of irrigated land has been brought back to cultivation to-date through the rehabilitation of seven major irrigation schemes that had been damaged by the conflict, benefiting more than 55,000 farm households. Moreover, new sustainable agricultural practices and a system of rice intensification has doubled yields and lowered input requirements in demonstration plots.

- Savings and credit groups expanded. Over 10,000 small community groups formed have started saving schemes, developed their business plans, and are accessing credit to upgrade their vocational and life skills for jobs and to set up micro-enterprises.

- Women leadership. Women are playing a leading role in village-level institutions, ensuring that the poor are targeted and that marginalized groups are included, and

- Community agriculture strengthened. Farmers have joined forces into Producer Organizations to coordinate their efforts to increase bargaining power, marketing activities, and incomes.


The total project cost of the Second Northeast Irrigated Agriculture Project is US$81.1 million, of which IDA contributed US$64.7 million. The Government provided US$13.7 million, and local beneficiary communities provided US$2.7 million.

Next Steps

Currently, the focus is on consolidating gains to ensure institutional and economic sustainability. This will be achieved by further strengthening village-level institutions as well as helping producers’ group increase their access to market and financial services. Additional financing is being considered to cover more villages and to rehabilitate major irrigation schemes in the Northern Province.

Learn More

North-East Irrigated Agriculture Project (1999-2005)
Project documents | Second project (2004-2011)

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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