Bright Lights in the Mountains
In central Sri Lanka, tucked away from the city, amidst rolling tea estates and misty mountains, a small shack gives shelter to an energetic, hardworking family. Five-year old Asanka runs about, fast as lightening, from their one room home to the open shed where two cows and a calf are feeding.
The house is small and it is hard to imagine that there would be much space to run about when all five family members are home. Despite the hardships, the walls are painted a bright pink, as if in defiance to its surroundings.
“We have worked hard all our lives,” 35-year old Indrani says smiling, busy with the cow feed. “When World Vision Lanka came to our village and began to help families, we were also identified as a potential family. They trained me to rear cattle. My two youngest are sponsored children now.”
Indrani was given training under the PROFEED project. For about a year Indrani received comprehensive training in cattle farming, from how to make the feed and care for a herd, to how to make a shed. World Vision also gave her a cow to help her start off.
Indrani also applied for a loan from VisionFund Lanka and in March 2016, she was able to buy another young cow and put up a shed with her first loan of about US $340. Soon after, to Indrani’s delight, she learned that her first cow Kalu was pregnant.
“Kalu is like family to us,” she says rubbing the animal’s head affectionately. “I birthed her baby myself,” Indrani says smiling at the new calf frolicking around happily, playing with Indrani’s youngest son Asanka.
Asanka has two elder brothers and a sister. The eldest is Asanka’s hero, 20-year-old Upul. “He is working in Colombo,” Asanka says with dreamy eyes. Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital city. “He’s working in a garment factory. When I grow up I’m going to earn lots of money in Colombo,” Asanka says eyes shining with hope.
17-year-old Nuwan was away at an extra tuition class, in preparation for his upcoming exams. Asanka’s sister, 16-year-old Nimeshika smiled brightly from behind her mother Indrani at her younger brother’s antics. Indrani works as many jobs as she could with her husband, 46-year-old Appuhami. They work in the some plantations nearby, as hired help, and when the work was available. Appuhami also tends to a small plot of land around their house. Every conceivable space around the house has been planted with vegetables and other greens that Appuhami takes to the local market to sell. This is their primary source of income. Asanka and Nimeshika proudly point to the ground against the back wall of the house. The small vertical strip of land, half the size of an office cubicle, has been planted by the kids. “I sell my vegetables, when I need to buy new things for school,” Nimeshika says.
The income that they receive from milking the cows is now sufficient to cover the costs of medicine and take care of the children. Indrani is looking forward to the increase in production when the new calf is also ready to give milk. She has high hopes for the cattle shed too. She hopes to save enough to make a more secure structure to house the cows. “I want to increase production from the 10 Liters we get today. I want to increase the herd to around 6 cows. Then we can save up and build a house here as well,” she says.
“Cattle farming has a future. We have struggled all our lives, but now I feel there is a way I can earn enough for my children to see a better life,” says Indrani looking fondly at her spirited family.