Rural Road Project to Help Poorest Districts in Sri Lanka

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are supporting a pilot project that will combine rural road work and the creation of income-generating opportunities in the poorest districts of Sri Lanka.

The project will be funded by a $2 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to be managed by ADB. The government of Sri Lanka and project beneficiaries will contribute $245,000 to complete the funding requirement.

The Improvement of Rural Access Roads and Livelihood Development for the Poor project will rehabilitate about 200 kilometers of rural access roads with community participation in Badulla, Monaragala and Ratnapura, the poorest districts in Sri Lanka.

Three to four non-governmental organizations will provide construction work training to 2,500 male and female workers from poor families living in the three districts covered by the project. The workers will undertake the rehabilitation of the target rural access roads in their villages, and will set aside 50% of their salaries to generate capital for self-employment.

The non-governmental organizations will also provide training for self-employment programs to 2,000 beneficiaries in the three target districts.

The assistance was in response to the request made by Sri Lanka to ADB for the development of an innovative project on a pilot basis to address the present poverty in the three target districts by improving their rural access roads.

"Although ADB finances the improvement of national and provincial roads, it has not yet financed improvement of rural access roads in Sri Lanka by generating income opportunities for poor village people," said T.M. Tilakaratne, Implementation/Program Officer of ADB's Resident Mission in Sri Lanka. "Lessons learned from the project could be applied to rural community development programs implemented by the government and other donors in other districts."

Isolation is one of the main causes of poverty, and is reflected in the lack of access to goods and services for poor village communities like those in Badulla, Monaragala and Ratnapura districts. Improving access to basic services such as common wells for drinking water, health services centers, schools and rural markets will greatly reduce poverty.