Moulding the Senagama pottery industry

Dilrukshi, a 33-year-old residing in Senagama, Uhanadivision, one of the most remote villages in theAmpara District, is athird generation pottery crafter. She is a member of a dynamic community whichhas been engaged in the pottery-making industry for over 15 years.

Pottery is very strenuous and yet also rewarding- making something beautiful out of basically nothing. Dilrukshi, together with support from her husband, spend hours and hours wedging and kneading the clay and thereafter heating it to the specific requirements.

Placing it on the potter’s wheel, she then goes on to mould beautiful pots in all shapes and sizes. The making of this in itself is pure art.

She starts at the bottom, place one hand on each side and pulls the clay up, gently shaping it with her fingers.

Unfortunately, this is a dying industry in Senagama.

With dwindling resources and costly infrastructure, Dilrukshi and her family are barely staying afloat. It was still her dream to expand her business so she can take care of her children and the family trade.

The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP),under the European Union funded Support to District Development Programme, in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka, stepped in to support her.

With an initial support to establish a clay-processing centre, UNDP then together with the National Design Centre provided technical development trainingon sustainable methodologies to increase production, quality control, product diversification and new designs.

This was coupled with the provision of an electric clay processer and electric potter wheels, which enable them to produce more within a short period.

Speaking on the GLED programme, Dilrukshi stated that if not for the programme the Senagama pottery industry would have run into rough waters.

“We are now breathing a sigh of relief, as the GLED programme not only equipped us with the right technology, but educated us on business fundamentals and business planning,” she said.

In an attempt to sustain this local production, UNDP then facilitated the establishment of the Senagama Clay Producers’ Society (SCPS). With a current membership of 16, this

Society will act as a single unit to support the business functions of the potters and also enhance the life standards of the member base.

“With the support of UNDP Sri Lanka’s GLED programme, we are able to reach out to more sophisticated and bigger markets”, she added.

DIlrukshi is among the selected entrepreneurs who showcased their products at the ‘Aadhayam 2017’ national trade fair.

Aadhayam 2017, a national trade fair organized by UNDP Sri Lanka was held at the BMICH, Colombo,from July 14-16.

The three-day trade fair showcased over 200 entrepreneurs, producer groups and organizations from ten selected districts of the country, namely, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Monaragala, Mullativu, Puttalam and Vavuniya.

From local artisan crafts to traditional spices, palymyrah, coir, batik and local food items, ‘Aadhayam 2017’ brought together diverse local entrepreneurs to celebrate Sri Lankan industries and promote sustainable development and inclusive growth to ensure that no one is left behind in the drive for economic growth in Sri Lanka.


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