Gangeyaya: Summary of Findings

Research and Report Writing Team: M. G. L. M. Premarathne, A. N. Renuka, Kalhari Lenerolle, W. W. A. N. Suleka, W. A. K. B. R. Kumara, A. D. N. L. R. Pathirana, E. M. Harshi and N. L. K. P. Liyanage

English Summary: Tamara Nissanka

Introduction

Gangeyaya, a village belonging to the Embilipitiya Divisional Secretariat in the Ratnapura District was one of the four villages that were studied during the ‘2010 Field Research Training Program’. The village is located in the Walawe River Basin in the southern dry zone of Sri Lanka. Gangeyaya, along with some other villages in the Embilipitiya area, was established as a resettlement village under the Uda Walawe Irrigation and Resettlement Project (UWIRP) initiated in the early 1950s. The project was aimed at developing irrigation facilities and relocating landless farmers to increase agricultural production and to promote commercial agriculture. Most resettlement in villages were established between the 1960s and 1970s. According to statistics of 2008, Gangeyaya is home to 4, 150 people of 830 families, most of whom are Buddhists.

The following is a concise description of what we learned about Gangeyaya during the three days of our field research in the village.

Family structure

When comparing family structures of the first, second and third generations we noticed that they have gradually changed from extended families to nuclear families. Some of the reasons for this change, as we understood, are:

  1. Moving out of the extended family after marriage,
  2. Migrating out of the village and abroad for employment, and
  3. Parents’ preference to educate their children and see them employed in fields other than agriculture, resulting in rural out-migration.

Thus, we see that marriage, labor migration and related attitudes, and the increasing priority given to education are some of the crucial reasons that have given rise to smaller families over the generations.

Livelihoods

Livelihoods in Gangeyaya should be understood in the context of a resettlement village. Before resettlement took place, most native villagers had depended on swidden (chena) agriculture. With the improvement of irrigation facilities under the UWIRP, newly relocated farmers were given lands and were encouraged to take up rice cultivation. Thus, rice farming became the major occupation for first generation Gangeyaya residents. However, as we gathered from the villagers, later on crops had been diversified and additional crops like banana and papaya have become popular in the area.

Apart from such changes in farming practices, many Gangeyaya villagers have moved away from farming and taken up other professions like teaching, managing businesses, clerical work in offices, and joining the security forces. Although women of older generations typically did the household work and supported their husbands in farmlands, presently the women are themselves involved in other jobs locally as well overseas. Despite these changes in professions, farming still remains the main occupation in Gangeyaya. According to Grama Niladari reports of 2008, out of the 1, 132 employed people in Gangeyaya, 650 are engaged in agriculture. The number of villagers in the public, private, industrial, and self-employment sectors are respectively 30, 170, 32, and 200.

Youth and Related Issues

The group we identified as ‘youth’ included those who were between the ages 15 and 25 years. A school principal in Gangeyaya expressed his dissatisfaction about students’ achievements in school. We understood (and we do not intend to generalize this to all the children in the village) that some of the students in this school face various social and financial problems, and these problems prevent them from getting a proper education. We learnt that after school education, a considerable number of young men join the security forces, and young women find themselves a job in garment factories outside the village.

Every house we observed had a television set, and the youth to whom we spoke said they enjoyed watching TV shows and listening to the latest music. They were also interested in the latest fashion. However, some of the young men held conservative views about how girls should dress.

Gangeyaya has several youth and sports societies in which young people are involved. The Gangeyaya youth actively corporate in organizing religious programs, shramadana campaigns (donation of labor) and dansal (stalls offering free meals) during important Buddhist festivals. Such collective activities have facilitated youth integration within the community.

Conclusion

The three days we spent in Gangeyaya trying to understand people’s lives made it clear to us that this village had experienced considerable changes since its establishment as a resettlement village between 1960s and 70s. The shift from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture is perhaps the most important change that has taken place after resettlement. Agricultural diversification, new agricultural practices (i.e. the use of agro-chemicals and farming technology), employment in sectors other than agriculture, the formation of nuclear families, and rural out migration are among other major changes that have come to shape village life in Gangeyaya over the decades.

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