As always food plays an important role in any visit to a Country Programme – I was travelling north in Sri Lanka to Vavuyina, once the heart land of the occupied territory and now a thriving town full of optimism.
I was last in the north 5 years ago and certainly the context has changed a great deal and our Oxfam programmes are doing their best to adapt to the new situation – maintaining relevance whilst building on our relationships and partnerships.
It was great to see how the diary project has developed – we visited a Milk Collection centre, fresh milk was arriving in all sorts of containers to be tested for quality and added to the farmers running total of milk for the month. The cooperative adds value to the milk by making ghee, yoghurt, toffee and ice cream.
The members have seen their income rise and they have plans to expand their products and markets.
It was only 9 am and I had already drunk 3 cups of hot milk and eaten a big slab of toffee!
The communities are hugely resilient – families are getting on with their lives – kids are going to school and women looking for sustainable ways to increase their incomes.
Families are also moving back to their land – some of which has not been used for 30 years – Oxfam and partners are renovating tanks – large lakes made 100s of years ago to irrigate farm land and already the first paddy crops in 30 years are growing . I opened the first irrigation gate – cause for celebration.
So after more milky tea ( a missed meeting the Government Agent), a Chinese dinner with the team, we set off in the early morning for Colombo and of course had to stop for breakfast on the way – fresh fresh string hoppers, all the trimmings , all on a freshly picked lotus leaf!