ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32
Financial Times  

Sarvodaya’s new tourism initiative through the community

Sarvodaya has launched a Community Tourism Initiative (CTI) to develop sustainable livelihoods and build capacity in village communities by sharing natural resources, village culture.

A Sarvodaya press release said community –based tourism is a growing market, as new generations of travelers worldwide seek more meaningful experiences from their leisure time.

Traditional beach and site-seeing tourism is vital to Sri Lanka’s economy but it does not always benefit and engage the communities which surround the hotels.

The CTI is designed to empower, engage and financially sustain village communities without compromising their traditions, values and way of life.
Under this, the villages run each project themselves with assistance in development, training and marketing from the CTI. Any surplus income from CTI projects goes directly to support the capacity-building activities of the village itself with 15% going to support Sarvodaya’s work in poverty alleviation and peace throughout Sri Lanka.

Alcohol and meat consumption, and smoking is not permitted at the project sites and each project is carefully designed to reflect authentic village experiences which will be of interest to visitors whether they are from overseas or Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya said.

The CTI was conceived and developed by British travel and developed by British travel and tourism professional. Catherine Leech, who returned to the UK in November, joined Sarvodaya as a volunteer in May 2005 after 23 years in the tourism industry. Jagath Wijesekara, a Sri Lankan hotel professional, has been working with Leech and he will manage and further develop the CTI when she leaves.

In Balapitiya, a natural open-air amphitheatre in the grounds of a new community centre was the inspiration for a children’s programme of teaching and cultural performances in traditional low country dance.

The villagers were keen to give their children opportunities to develop their self-esteem and confidence in the wake of the Tsunami.

The Arts and cultural centre opens in January 2007 with performances from 4 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays (group bookings can be arranged at other times on request).

In Polhena, visitors can learn about traditional Sri Lankan cooking over a ‘daralipa’ wood-fired stone hearth and enjoy a delicious traditional meal of rice and curry prepared by the villagers.

The ‘A Taste of Sri Lanka’ restaurant opens daily later this month with cooking demonstrations every Saturday at 11am, the Sarvodaya press release said.

Each Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, women from Mirissa are holding a handicrafts market on Paradise Road, close to the beach. Visitors can support the local community by purchasing their authentic Sri Lankan handicrafts and local children perform traditional dances at 11am and 2pm.

In 2007, the CTI is hoping to open an unusual new venture in Saliyapura, close to Anuradhapura, in the heart of the Cultural Triangle. Visitors can enjoy a village – prepared lunch and a tour of Sarvodaya’s educational farm to see fruits and vegetables grown using traditional non-chemical fertilizer and pest control methods. All tourism income will support an educational programme in non- chemical farming techniques for local farmers.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.