Shine a light in darkest of times

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As every dark cloud has a silver lining, the people of our country have found creative solutions to the problems in the country. As the darkness of the crisis began to engulf the whole country, the light of people’s creativity and effort was able to move the country forward.

Successful cultivation with organic fertiliser, invention of modern stoves, a new income source by selling firewood, and a good market for milk and many more opportunities have been created with this crisis and the most important thing is that these opportunities did not just knock on people’s door, but the aspiring people created opportunities through their efforts.

It is not to sugar-coat or to hide the fact that people are suffering, but to admire and to encourage the people who are trying their best to keep going and who try to uplift the country as well.

They were not demotivated nor did they give up on life even though the authorities and the responsible persons have turned a deaf ear to the woes of ordinary citizens. They kept motivating themselves and have faced the challenges amid a thousand worries.

As the citizens take on more issues head-on, even the smallest efforts are worthy of admiration and praise.

Successful cultivation and good benefits for dairy farmers 

While visiting the picturesque villages of Gunnepana and Walala, which are located in Kandy, Ceylon Today captured the lush green fields. During our visit, we came across the hard-working farmers who struggled to maintain their crops even amid a thousand challenges. 

Speaking to a farmer with over 35 years experience in Gunnepana, known as Sinharathna Banda, we learnt that when the fertiliser problem erupted, from the very beginning they started to make the required organic fertiliser themselves and even after the situation worsened, they were able to manage their cultivations. He also said there were times when they felt like giving up, as it was hard work, time-consuming, and yet there were no results.

Now, they are speaking with tears of joy, as their attempts weren’t in vain. The farmers said they are preparing for the Yala Season as well, which begins from June-July with the organic fertiliser they made with cow dung, which was easily found in their cattle barn and with other discarded food. 

Banda said, the biggest challenge the farmers faced was reduction in harvest, as it takes at least five months to get used to organic fertiliser. The harvest has been cut in half.

As Banda is an owner of a cattle barn, he said, with the shortage of milk powder, a good market has been created for their products. He said there was no supply to meet the demand as the demand is greater than ever.

He claimed that even though earlier people didn’t drink fresh cow milk, now people have started to buy fresh cow milk directly from farmers and that has brought them a good profit too. 

Banda said they sold a bottle of milk for Rs 100 earlier, but now they sell it for Rs 150 and some sell it for Rs 200 and the Milk Board buys 1 litre of milk for Rs 85, increasing Rs 20.

He also stressed that if they feed the cows with 5 kg of poonac daily, they would be able to produce nearly 10 litres of milk.

But unfortunately, the price of 50 kg of poonac has been increased to Rs 6,000 and the dairy farmers claimed that they cannot pay this much, therefore they feed the cows as they can.

Also, they were happy that now people buy their products, as they can earn a comparatively bigger profit than selling it to the Milk Board.

“People didn’t care about cow milk before, many were giving reasons not to drink milk and there were very few people who bought milk from us, but now lots of people are coming to buy milk and we cannot even meet the demand,” said the farmer’s wife.

Invention of new stoves and a good demand for pottery industry 

Asanka Sanjeewa, who lives in the village which is considered to be the Walan Gammanaya (the village of pottery) in Walala, is a traditional artisan who is related to the first pottery generation of our country. He said the pottery industry is rejuvenated, as people have started to use pottery products more and the artisans are highly motivated.

Sanjeewa said there is a huge demand for the pottery stoves and therefore they have doubled their production, adding more value, the smokeless and coal stove is their latest creation.

He said in his 21 years of artisanry, this is a sudden demand, and therefore they have been able to make a fair profit and to increase the remuneration of the workers due to the demand of the clay stoves and the other pottery products.

He also said the Rs 500 clay stove now sells for Rs 1,000 and the price of smokeless stoves has become a little expensive, as the necessary gadgets are becoming expensive. He lamented that those sellers increase the prices, as the demand is high, for example the price of the cooling fan which was attached to the smokeless stove had been Rs 600 months ago, but now it has shot up to Rs 1,200.

He said he would love to give a helping hand to people rather than profiting in this situation and he added that the Government and the Development Officer supports them.

Dharmasiri is also an artisan from the same village, with 30 years of experience, said this is a good time for them and their business and there is a great demand for clay stoves. He also said he is making a good profit, as he is able to find the necessary clay from his own paddy field.      

We spoke to Kodithuwakku, a pottery seller in Kandy, who has been working there for 40 years, and he said due to cooking gas and kerosene shortages, the price of clay stoves has increased, yet demand for the stoves is high.

His view was that the prices are higher because supply is lower. As there is a great demand for the clay stoves, he said he has been able to make a good profit.

Thawfeek Scharifdeen is an experimenter who tries to invent new creations and has been able to create an electric charcoal stove inspired by YouTube.

He said he was able to find all the necessary equipment from his own home which are, a cooling fan of a computer, one flower pot, some sand, and some cement.

Scharifdeen claimed that the kerosene and cooking gas shortage inspired him to make the stove and now they are benefiting from the electric stove, as it only cost around Rs 30 for electricity for the whole month, and they are able to source the coconut shells from their own house. 

New income source by selling firewood

Kokila is an owner of a grocery store in Kandy. He has worked there for nearly 20 years, but said this is the first time he has sold firewood in his grocery. Kokila said this is an extra income.

Kokila said he started to sell firewood as a service for the people and now he has been able to make a good profit too. According to him, the wood-cutter called Nawarathna who provides firewood, has started to hire more workers to chop the wood and distribute.

When contacted, Nawarathna stressed that his business is successful, but transport is a major obstacle. He also said if they can get provisions, it would be useful.

We visited a saw mill in Sirimalwatta. Its owner, Nandana said there is 100 per cent demand for firewood, but the harden wood demand is zero per cent, and they are unable to meet the demand.   

He also said sawdust is in demand and they are able to profit from that.

Nandana also said, before this crisis began, they had sold wood for a cheaper price and sometimes even given it for free, as there was no demand, and the firewood remained. But now, he said they sell it for a fair price and make a profit.

He said at present the problem is the lack of workers and fuel for the machines. He also said there are machines which can turn the sawdust into wood sticks, but at this time they cannot afford the machines. He stressed that if the Government can support the employees by giving the machines for concessional prices, they will be able to meet the necessary demand for a concessional price.

In these hard times, we are all trying our best to move forward amid thousands of obstacles. As a country, we have failed in the international arena, but the people living here know how strong they are, and how hard they are trying to overcome these challenges. These people are not blaming anyone, but working hard silently.

By Kanchana Kolagolla