Ariyasena Hettiarachchi and his wife Wimala tend their garden in Thanamalvila, Sri Lanka.
Thanamalvila is located in the deep south of Sri Lanka. There, rainfall comes from October to December, with the northeast monsoons. The rest of the time, especially during June to August, it’s dry. With mostly drought-like conditions, drinking water and water for cultivation have always been scarce.
However, drawing on the ancient practice of constructing reservoirs and rainwater tanks, the community has embraced a rainwater harvesting project implemented by World Vision.
“For most people in our community, the ponds provide sufficient water and now it is very rare that we have to buy vegetables from the market,” says gardener Wimala.
The project was launched in 2001, with World Vision funding part of the construction cost of the ponds, while the community contributed towards the rest of the costs. Water from the ponds is usually drawn with the use of a pump and through a pipe that has been laid underneath. In areas where electricity is not available, solar panels are used.
“World Vision advised us to retain the ground water,” says Sumithra. “We were introduced to the rainwater ponds and we learned that for the ground to be less arid and for greenery to thrive, the ground water needs to be left as it is.”
In addition to rainwater ponds, the community still digs a few wells to retain some ground water, in case the rainwater ponds dry up.
“But we rarely use the wells because the pond almost always has enough water for cultivation,” explains Sumithra.
The rainwater ponds are not only a source of irrigation water, but also a source of income. Some community members also use the water for brick making. In turn, the bricks are used to expand the rainwater ponds.
Through World Vision, more than 600 rainwater ponds have been constructed in 48 villages benefiting more than 4,000 families. Studies have shown that the ponds contribute to increasing water levels in wells, reducing the brackishness of the water and lessening the general aridity of the area.
Photo©2015 World Vision Niroshini Fernando