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Dombagahawela Community Profile

Moneragala is one of the two districts coming under the Uva Province. The other district is Badulla where Plan has already been working. This district is situated 288km away from Columbo; the distance from Badulla town is 64km. Moneragala district is divided into 10 Divisional Secretariat (DS) Areas. The total population of the District is 352,920. 93% of the population is Sinhalese Buddhists; there are 5% Tamils who profess Hinduism and 2% Muslims who profess Islam. The total area of Monaragala district is 5545.6 square km. Moneragala is one of the poorest districts in Sri Lanka. Though small, Moneragala is one of the main towns in the Uva province. The land areas bordering the Eastern and Southern Provinces are coming under the dry zone. Therefore geographically this district is falling within the dry zone.

The total land area in the district is rural and dry. The annual rainfall is 1500-2500mm. The majority of the population is involved in agricultural activities. Therefore in the rural areas one can see a lot of paddy fields. Both men and women get involved in the paddy cultivation. Planting and the harvesting of the paddy bring life to the villages. Most occasions the community members get involved in paddy cultivation on a collective basis. As the rainfall is not sufficient for paddy cultivation people depend on irrigation. The "Senanyaka Samudra", one of Sri Lanka's largest irrigation projects, is situated in between Moneragala and Ampara district. In addition to paddy, this district produces pumpkin, lime and banana; people are involved in sugar cane cultivation too. During the off season farmers get involved in "Chena" cultivation and some find labour work in the nearby sugar cane cultivation or with the sugar factory which is situated 40km from the Moneragala town.

The income derived from these economic activities will be around Rs 750.00. This is not sufficient to meet the essential needs of the family. This income is supplemented by the government's poverty alleviation programs such as "Janasaviya", "Samurdhi" and food stamp scheme.

As the people don't have good health services and health awareness very often we can see outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea and Malaria; in the recent past the area was affected by an outbreak of brain fever due to contaminated drinking water from unprotected wells. Also, most of the children are under nourished due to the economic condition and lack of awareness. The number of deaths due to snakebite is very high. This is mainly due to the jungle surrounding the villages and lack of access roads to take the victim to hospital at Moneragala town. Also, for further medical care or specialized medical services they will have to travel to Badulla hospital.

The villages in the Moneragala district lack infrastructure facilities. There are very few roadways which connects them with main roads and the main town Moneragala. This prevents the people from getting the services from the developed areas and also in the marketing of their products. This affects the children's school attendance too. Especially during the monsoonal rain the roads get flooded and elders and children find it very difficult to travel. The condition of housing is not healthy.

A majority of the villagers live in the thatched small houses. Here and there one can see a few houses with a permanent roof. The overall situation relating to housing is not satisfactory. The houses have insufficient space; most of the houses have only one room and temporary kitchens. They also don't pay much concenrn to the construction of toilets and to keep the environment healthy. Electricity has not reached most of the villages.

The villagers celebrate the usual celebrations related to Buddhism such as "Vesak" and "Poson". In the village areas during the "Chena" cultivation the farmer sings songs called "Peel Kavi". Also, culturally the people from this area still perform "Poojas" called "Bali" and "Thovil" to cure the people who are possessed of evil spirit. Children play a traditional game called "Elle" and volleyball; children living closer to the town show more interest in cricket. One of the holiest places in Sri Lanka, "Kataragama" is situated in the Moneragala district. This sacred place is regarded as an important place to make pilgrimage by the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. The religious rituals and worship of god Kataragama attracts pilgrims from all over the country. The "Perahera" which is being held during the month of July/August is attractive. During this time people perform "Kavadi" dance and "Fire Walk" to fulfil vows. Another place for worship is Kotabowa temple where Buddhists and Hindus make pilgrimage. Moneragala district has the largest Buddha statue in the world; this was sculpted in the 5th century AD and rehabilitated a few years ago. There is another religious shrine for the Muslims at a place called Alupotha.

As a first step Plan has moved into the poorest Divisional Secretariat areas called "Madulla" and "Syambalanduwa" in the district. As an initial activity we worked with the Department of Education to conduct national level year five examinations and obtained very good results for some of the backward schools in this district. This has brought credit for Plan in the area and made it easy for us to give awareness about Plan to the community.

Glossary:
Senanayaka Samudra: Name of a tank
Janasaviya, Samurdhi: Government's poverty alleviation programmes
Vesak: Lord Buddha's birth day
Poson: Full Moon Day on which Buddhism was introduced in Sri Lanka
Thovil, Bali: Rituals performed to drive away evil spirits
Perahera: Procession of elephants with dancers
Kavadi: A kind of Hindu ritual
Chene Cultivation: Slash and burn cultivation practised in Sri Lanka
Poojas: Performing religious rites
Pel Kavi: A type of folk song
Elle: A game similar to baseball


This page last updated: 19 July 2004



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