How ILO Is Helping Resettled Farmers Grow Sustainable Livelihoods in North Sri Lanka
12 October 2022
In a blue-checkered sarong, 56-year-old farmer Issakitmuthu Selvakumar inspects the progress of the groundnut crop he planted in northern Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu district. His swinging gait through the beige fields is the result of a prosthetic he had fitted after losing a leg in a shell attack during Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war.
Neither Selvakumar’s disability, nor his displacement from Mullaitviu in 2008 dented his determination to one day return to his land and support himself through decent work. “I like farming and I have experience in it. I will use this leg and work. I don’t want to rely on anyone,” he says.
Selvakumar’s interview is one of several featured in a new video that shows how the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Support to Resettlement and Reconciliation (SURAR) project— backed by the U.S. State Department—has helped around 300 returnees revive their livelihoods and reintegrate into communities in northern Sri Lanka.
“Decent work and social justice are key drivers of peace and resilience,” says ILO’s Country Director in Sri Lanka, Ms. Simrin Singh. “The SURAR project highlights ways through which employment creation and income-generation opportunities stimulate long-term socio-economic development while complementing reconciliation efforts, it demonstrates how the world of work creates sustained peace.”
Between 2019 and 2021, ILO helped Selvakumar launch an agriculture business on 2-acres of resettled land he had been displaced from more than a decade earlier—providing him with technical training and groundnut seeds and building a shared agro-well to support the year-round irrigation of his crops. Operating under the United Nations’ Joint Programme for Peace Project, ILO targets highly vulnerable groups in resettled communities, such as female-headed households and persons with disabilities.
“Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress on health, education and quality of life over the past decade, but disparities still exist,” says Hanaa Singer Hamdy, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Sri Lanka. “ILO’s Support to Resettlement and Reconciliation programme is a great example of how by ensuring no one is left behind, we can uplift entire communities.”