• Annual Report for 2013 – appended .
  • Report on the  Training Programme for co-operators conducted in Madurai, South India in collaboration with the Co-operative College of Manchester, UK. ( appended)

Reports on Programmes of CSNHA conducted from its inception:

  • Assistance to Paddy Cultivators in the Mannar District;
  • Livelihood assistance to war victims in Mullaitivu ;
  • Donation of coconut saplings to war victims in 2015 to commemorate International Widows Day event in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

( Reports in respect of these projects are to be  added  to the site)

CSNHA has published the following articles relating to  its  activities.

A Concept Note  on the a need for urgent steps to be taken to develop the war affected people

The people in the war affected Districts of the Northern Province are among those worst affected by the recently concluded war in Sri Lanka. This part of the country had a large number of co-operative societies meeting many of the needs of the community in the days prior to the war. Among them were thrift and credit co-operative societies (TCCS) which were playing a leading role in helping the not so affluent members of the community, especially in the rural areas. In the context of the current post war situation there is a need for urgent steps to be taken to develop the war affected people and put them back on their feet.

It has been reported that there are about 1359 registered TCCSs in the Northern Districts. The District Unions of these societies in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Mullaitivu have begun playing their role in helping these societies to move forward. According to these Unions only 545 TCCSs are actively functioning now. These societies are promoting thrift and savings while providing credit facilities to their members on a limited scale.

According to a statement issued by a State Official there are about 50,000 war widows in theNorthern Province. Only 2500 of such widows are members of the TCCSs functioning in the Districts in this Province. Many others are anxiously waiting to join these societies to benefit from the credit facilities and other activities. If the remaining registered societies could be re-activated more widows and other women affected could benefit from them. According to the District Unions within the 545 functioning TCCSs there are 32,200 members of whom 75 percent are women. In the circumstances there is an urgent need not only to make the functioning societies more efficient but also to re-activate the dormant societies. Besides there are several other women’s organization such as the Yuga Shakthi which are functioning in these districts with about 3000 members, who have shown a keen interest in either joining the existing societies or forming TCCSs of their own.

The Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities (CSNHA) has been actively propagating the importance of providing assistance to the war affected people through co-operative societies by publishing articles in the media and delivering lectures at meetings in U.K., Switzerland and the Netherlands. This has resulted in many funders and funding organizations among the Tamil diaspora showing great interest in providing assistance to them through co-operatives. However, the societies in the districts in the North are not adequately equipped to handle large sums of money. Nor are they capable of performing any other development activities for the community on their own other than in functioning as a grass root level mini bank. In the circumstances there is a need to train the key members of these District Unions and the TCCSs in the following operational spheres –
Activation of dormant societies;
Managing large amounts of finances reaching their societies;

Capacity building of women to become leaders. Even though there are a large number of women members in these societies, the key positions in the societies are being held by men due to their inadequacies.
Involving members the development of the activities of the community;
Education on effectively managing members enterprises and marketing their produce profitably.

Since the members could be affected by natural disasters such as floods, they need to be made aware of the need for protection of their resources through insurance schemes.
There are certain areas in the Wanni district there is a concentration of women victims of the war. Unemployment has compelled some of them to indulge in anti-social activities such as prostitution. There is a need for education of these women in the dangers of such vocations and shown better options such as joint ventures in cultivation or dairy farming.
Training in the techniques of collecting and analyzing data of their members and carrying on a survey of needs.

Taking all these matters into consideration the CSNHA decided to seek assistance initially to train the key officials in the five District Unions of the TCCSs in the North on the issues concerned and build up their capacity to perform more efficiently and effectively. Such training should include an opportunity to meet persons of similar rank in the co-operative societies of other countries around the world where communities have suffered due to wars, and which have subsequently developed through co-operatives. It has also been found that among the leaders of the community there are hardly any persons who are aware of the potential of co-operatives in the development of their respective communities. The training should be designed not just to make them skilled in their respective vocations but to make them leaders of the community who believe in the concepts of co-operative development so that they can propagate them even after they cease to be employees.

The need to wean war victims away from depending on charity A Concept Note

Since the end of the war in Sri Lanka assistance to the victims of the war in the North have continued in many forms. Yet the degree to which they have succeeded in the objectives of providing such help, is yet to be measured by competent persons. It is the general opinion that most of the war victims in the North and East of Sri Lanka continue to be destitute. It is felt that many of the war victims have now been afflicted by the dependency syndrome and continue to expect more and more from the diaspora.

When the Northern Provincial Council elections took place recently many of them hoped that the Provincial Council would be able to something meaningful for their betterment. Unfortunately the activities of that Council remain stymied. The legitimate powers of the Provincial Council to get involved in community development could not be used by them for lack of resources.
However, no amount of funds or plans of extraneous bodies or authorities can improve the living conditions of the war victims unless they themselves are made to participate in planning process for their own development. Most of what the funds of the diaspora or their plans do, is what social scientists call the ‘top down process’. This has to be reversed and made into a ‘bottom up process’ . For that to become a reality, there is a need to build up the capacity of the war victims to get involved in the process.

The war has resulted in the dearth of men in the community. Many women have now become heads of households. That is a role that they had not played before. So there is a need to build their capacity to deal with the new problems they have to face. That includes the traditional baby-sitting, house-keeping and the non-traditional task of earning for a living. Capacity building cannot be done when those who need it are scattered. They need to be brought together into convenient groups to do so. That would be a laborious task.

That task would be made easier, if one could get them into groups. Such groups could be found among the community based co-operatives that exist among them. According to statistics available in a website of the Governor of the Northern Province, there are nearly 1350 registered Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies in their midst. These are societies that had existed before the conflict escalated and displaced the population in the North. Most of them have spontaneously began to function with the re-settlement of the displaced. An informal survey done by the Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities has found that there are 30,000 members in these societies, many of whom are women. A considerable number of them are war widows. It was found that these formal groups of war victims can form a good target group to commence capacity building and provide assistance for livelihood activities.

Building up their capacity could be done through training programs for these groups by interested organizations. They could also consider providing financial assistance for the group as a whole by providing funds not to the individuals in the groups but to their societies to be used by their members on the basis of a revolving fund for income generation activities. Soft loans from the revolving funds would help them in a big way to start such activities. Using this method of funding enables many to benefit from the monies received instead of only one individual benefiting from it. This is no occasion to discuss the details of the operation of this system. But what has to be remembered is training of members is one of the principles of the co-operative system that has not received adequate attention. For the success of an assistance given, the beneficiary of a co-operative society and even the society itself has to be sufficiently equipped to make the best use of the funds received. It is for this reason that more and more projects to build up the capacity of the members of these societies through training programmes should be conducted. In the circumstances, charitable organisations should consider stopping grants directly to victims of the war and provide assistance to organized groups such as cooperatives among the war victims for well-considered income generation projects through the revolving funds of such societies. It is only then that we could wean them away from the dependency syndrome. As the saying goes – making someone depend on you is not charit

Training needs of Women Victims of the War  in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

A Concept Note

The people in the war affected Districts of the Northern Province are among those worst affected by the war that was concluded in May, 2009 in Sri Lanka. It has been estimated that there are nearly 45,000 women who have lost their husbands during the war. Most of these women had been depending on the earnings of their husbands during peace time and many of them have been merely living as house wives and have had hardly any education. Some of them are widowed while they were teenagers and have one or two children. Some others have not only to fend for their children but also for their aged parents. Among them are a few who had been maimed during the war. The one common factor that binds them, besides their language affinity, is that they have all survived the trauma of war.
The end of the war saw the spontaneous rush of their brethren in the diaspora to help them from starving to death. Most of the large amounts of monies poured into the region by charitable organizations of the Tamil diaspora had been providing relief to these war victims. Some have however funded projects to development the devastated infrastructure such as dwellings, medical institutions and schools. But yet these efforts have failed to uplift their living conditions. In fact most of them suffer from a dependency syndrome and continue to wait for well-wishers to provide their basic needs such as food, clothing and even school books.
Fortunately the Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities (CSNHA), had been able to find out that there are about 1350 Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies in their midst with a membership of nearly 30,000, a majority of whom are women victims of the war in the Northern Province. 2500 of them are said to be widows. Many others are anxiously waiting to join these societies to benefit from the credit facilities and other activities of these societies. Though the CSNHA has been able to provide financial help for livelihood activities of the members of these societies, there is an urgent need to provide training for these members, especially the women on the following spheres

Capacity building of women to become leaders. Even though there are a large number of women members in these societies, the key positions in the societies are being held by men due to their inadequacies

Involving members the development of the activities of the community;

Education on effective management of enterprises of beneficiaries of assistance and marketing their produce profitably.

Since the members could be affected by natural disasters such as floods, they need to be made aware of the disaster management techniques

Unemployment has compelled some of them to indulge in anti-social activities such as prostitution. There is a need for education of these women in the dangers of prostitution be shown better options such as joint ventures in cultivation, dairy farming etc.

Training in the techniques of collecting data for a survey of needs.

Taking all these matters into consideration the CSNHA has decided to seek to conduct training programmes on these matters to a sample of these women.

The training is to be designed to make these women become leaders of the community with the skills mentioned above and persons who believe in developing themselves through co-operative principles.

Concept Note on Coconut saplings for war widows

Since the end of the war the Government and other organisations within and outside Sri Lanka have being helping the victims of the war in the North and the East to enable them to resume their normal lives. But so far no one has done a proper evaluation to make an assessment of the extent to which such assistance provided to war victims so far has borne fruit, and to see how better the funds could have been utilized. The extent to which all the assistance provided during the past six years has helped the victims meaningfully, is debatable. However it is evident that many of the victims have now become afflicted with a dependency syndrome and continue to look forward for more and more help from the diaspora.

It was reported that recently a decision has been taken by the current cabinet to allow an unhindered flow of funds to help the war victims, especially the women in the North, who form a bulk of them. This decision provides a golden opportunity for those in the diaspora to launch on well-considered and meaningful projects to deal with the current issues facing the people of the North and the East. They need to think of innovative projects to deal with not only the menace of drugs and liquor but also the other problems of the war victims. They also should review the manner in which assistance had been provided to war victims in the past. Some of the organisations which have been making remittances to various livelihood activities so far have now realized the need to review their methods. They are now looking at the other options available to help them.

Most of the war victims are women who now find they have to play a dual role, as the sole breadwinner of the family and as the head of their households. The promotion of the co-operative or other societies among them could be considered as an option. Realising the importance of these societies, a co-operative society in the Netherlands which has been collaborating in the past with these District Unions to provide help for the livelihood activities of the war widows among the members of these societies, has launched on a novel project this year. That project is to provide quick yielding coconut saplings to as many war widows as possible through the Federation of these societies, to commemorate the International Widows’ Day falling on June 23rd. The Provincial Council in the North has given its blessings to this project. The society in the Netherlands has been able to raise the awareness of the Tamils in the diaspora on the environmental damage caused during the war by the destruction of a large number of coconut trees.
Those in the diaspora have been made to realize the importance of providing coconut saplings to the widows. These saplings would start yielding in a few years and provide them with a steady source of income to supplement their needs, for many years. Realising the benefits of this innovative project, it is learnt that a large number of Tamils in the diaspora and Hindu Temples in Netherlands and the United Kingdom have contributed generously to make the project a success.

Arrangements could be made for the Federation of Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies to collaborate with the Coconut Development Board of Sri Lanka in implementing this project. The beneficiaries could be trained by the officials of the branch of the Coconut Board in Atchuvely. This training is to be provided in the localities of the beneficiaries before they actually receive the saplings. The training is to focus on how best to nurse the saplings, protect them from pests and get optimum benefits from these plants. The saplings to be provided are those that the Board had recommended as suitable for the Northern Province. So the chances of the success of this project is high. It is hoped that they will extend the project to as many villages as possible in the Northern Province and even to the East.

More innovative projects of this nature is needed to help the war victims. A cost benefit analysis of the coconut sapling project had shown that this is an exceptional example of how more and more could be helped at the small cost of coconut saplings to be provided. As the life of a coconut tree extends to about ten to twelve years or more a whole generation is going to benefit from it when these trees start yielding in three or four years.

Report on the Training Programme conducted in Madurai – a summary


At a meeting of many charitable organization helping the victims of the war in Sri Lanka held in July, 2013 many of the participants lamented that in spite of the large amounts expended for this purpose, there are no visible signs of improvement in the lives of the war victims. The members of the Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian

Activities (CSNHA) who attended this meeting expressed the view that better results could have been obtained if such assistance had been provided through the grass root level co-operative societies in those Districts. This suggestion was accepted almost unanimously. However the CSNHA realized that due to the unsettled situation that prevailed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for several years, the personnel in the co-operative societies have had no training whatsoever during that period and as a consequence they may not be able to utilize the funds that may be channeled through them effective. That is why the CSNHA launched on a project to train some of the key personnel in the District Unions of these Societies, to build up the capacity of the societies to effectively implement development projects. After a careful search of prospective training institutions the CSNHA decided to collaborate with the Co-operative College in Manchester, U.K. (CCM) as the CCM has experience in conducting such training in war affected areas in other parts of the world. Madurai was chosen because of its proximity to Sri Lanka and because it was thought the participants could be taken to the co-operatives in that area for an educational tour. The CSNHA also had contacts with the Lady Doak College Madurai, which has the necessary training facilities and a hostel for the trainees.

The Participants

The men too did not show any inclination to develop the women to become leaders. Though they said that the insecurity of women in the North Province deterred them from becoming leaders, that reason did not appear to be plausible.
Though one of the co-operative principles speaks of co-operation between co-operatives, the members of the Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies did not show any interest in co-operating with the other societies, such as the Dairy Farmers Societies, the Fishermen’s Societies or the Palm Products Co-operatives that exist in their midst. Though some of the NGO’s that had been providing funds to some of these societies had been conducting some training programmes for employees of co-operative societies, none of them had given them any training relevant to co-operative societies or the development of their communities. Since the civil administration in the Northern Province is in the midst of a conflict between the officers loyal to the Governor and those loyal to the Chief Minister, the Co-operative Department in the Province has failed to devise methods for the smooth functioning of the projects for which funds had been provided to co-operative societies from donors – both from the local NGOs and INGOs.
The employees of co-operatives who had come to participate in the programme indicated that they are poorly paid when compared to State Sector employees and are an unhappy lot. Consequently they could not put their heart and soul to perform their duties diligently

The Training

The training commenced on 24th February and continued till 28th February, without a break. The trainer from the Co-operative College in Manchester was fully occupied with the trainees during these days. From 1st to 4th March, 2014 the programme included educational tours and training in data collection, communication skills and promoting the role of women in community development through co-operatives. Please see annex IV for what the trainees learnt or did, during the period of the training. In addition to these, Mr. S. Selvarajah of the Ilford Amman Temple, who is one of those who contributed to meeting the cost of the training, had a formal discussion with the participants. He had travelled all the way down to Madurai to meet the participants who had come for the Training.   The normal programmes continued daily from 9 to 5 p.m. But on the evening on March 3rd Mr. Selvarajah had a formal discussion with them from 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. He also attended the awards ceremony on the next day. During the other evenings the participants continued their discussions, sometimes till late in the night, on what they learnt that day.

At the commencement of the programme, the participants were given an opportunity to tell their expectations in coming for the training. They were also asked to name at least one project from their District Union which was a success or a failure and were asked to give the reasons for the success or the failure of the project, as they saw it.

During the training, videos relating to community development through co-operatives were also shown.

The programmes were conducted with a view not only to enhance their knowledge, but also to develop their skills and change their attitudes. There were many group discussions and role play activities. The training was based on the learner centre method. This method enabled the trainees to follow the course without losing interest. A report on what they learnt on each day, in the words of the participants themselves, is annexed (see annex IV)

During the past several years they had not participated in any such training and this was the first such training experience for most of them. To many of them, this was their first trip outside their home Districts ! Almost all the participants had lived through the war and have frightful memories of the war. Some have lost members of their family during the war.
The training was conducted within the premises of the Lady Doak College in Madurai which provided an academic environment for the trainees. Being a premier women’s education institution in India it had a large campus with many faculties. Though it was an exclusively women’s institution, special permission had been granted to us to let the male participants to stay in the guest rooms of the college and for them to get about in the campus freely. There was a sense of security among the trainees as they were accommodated within the campus of this College itself. The Principal of the College and her staff gave us full co-operation in conducting the programme successfully.


Impact of the training

At the beginning of each day’s sessions, starting from the second day, the participants were asked to submit two statements on what they had learnt the previous day. One statement is to be by the males and the other by the females. (A translation of the combination of these statements is in annex IV).

On the final day, each participant was asked to give briefly, in one or two sentences on a piece of paper, their impression on the training course, anonymously. These pieces of paper were later pasted on the board. Almost all of them expressed the view, in different words, that they did not know, until then, that there is so much relating to their duties that they did not know. They indicated that they are waiting anxiously to get back to their duties to start sharing this knowledge and practising the new ideas that have got into their heads. We ourselves were able to feel that the training had provided them an impetus to start working more effectively once they get back. We observed their conversations were often on what they hope to do when they get back with the knowledge they have acquired

The participants indicated that they now clearly know the difference between the enterprise of a co-operative society and that of a business concern, an NGO or a government department.

They have realized that if they acted effectively using the knowledge gained they will be able to bring about the desired change in the lives of those affected by the war who are members of the communities to which they belong. There were visible changes in their ways of communicating with each other.

The participants accepted the need for transparency in the activities of their societies and were eager to get back to their offices and exhibit pictures, charts and notices with facts and figures of the various activities of their societies, on the walls of their respective offices , for the members of their society and visitors to the office to know them about them.

The final day’s activity of involving each one of the participants in preparing a business plan for a chosen project of their organisation, showed that the participants have become well versed in how to prepare a business plan based on the resources available, the skills they have, the marketing facilities in their areas, taking into consideration the threats and opportunities available. The seniors among the participants are determined to arrange a meeting with the officers of the Provincial Administration in their homeland to explain the problems they encounter and devise ways and means of overcoming them in collaboration with the officers of the Co-operative Department. The participants clearly understood the need for training of others in the respective societies and are determined to conduct training programmes in their own areas to transfer the knowledge they have gained during their training in Madurai. The female participants are determined to work to enhance the capacity of the women and see that more and more women become members of their societies and get elected as members of the Board of Directors.

Following the field visit to an organisation called ‘Thiyagam’ led by a disabled lady in Madurai who is running a well organised skills training centre for disabled persons, the participants were inspired to take every step possible to establish such a training centre for the large number of disabled persons in their respective districts. This lady had completed her university education despite her disability and had formed that organisation to help other disabled women to make a living.

On the final day’s proceeding included a detailed discussion on how each District could prepare a three year business plan for their Unions, based on what they have learnt in Madurai. The participants were determined to do that as soon as they return to their Districts and submit them to the CSNHA to see if funds could be found for those projects.

Finally the Presidents and other higher level officers of the societies who attended this training course are determined that the societies in the five districts should form a Federation of Thrift and Credit Societies Unions of the Northern Province to enable them to act as a body to meet the challenges they face in helping the members of their community. In fact, when we spoke to the President of the Vavuniya District TCCS Union on 24th March by phone, he told us that they have already got an   appointment for the Presidents of the District Unions to meet the Provincial Head of the Co-operative Department( CCD), to discuss common problems. They said they intended to seek guidance from the Department on the procedures they are expected to follow when receiving funds from donors, from within or abroad for their development projects. That we think, is a positive result of the training they had received.



Despite all the challenges we had to face, the participants returned to their respective Districts very enthusiastically. The feed backs we received after their return is very encouraging and we are confident the performances of their societies will improve. As stated earlier, soon after the participants arrived we did a pre-training assessment of the knowledge and skills. After the training the changes among the participants in these aspects were visible. The tutor himself had noted them. While the training was progressing we were able to see the improvement in their outputs from the group reports submitted.

It is proposed to review the improvement in the performance of the societies in general and the participants in particular, in about three months, from the answers we propose to solicit to a questionnaire we intend sending to the participants. That is to be followed by a discussion over skype.

Among the areas we observed that need further development is capacity building of women in the community and promoting a greater participation of women directly in the activities of their societies. There is also a need to improve their computer skills. The fact that none of the participants, except one or two, have personal email addresses, is an indication of that. This is more due to the absence of easy access to computers rather than to other reasons. There is a need to make computers more accessible to participants and an improvement of their knowledge of using computers to facilitate their work.

These participants had not been involved in training and developing others but we are confident that they would do so in the coming months.

Each of the participants was enthusiastic to get back and work using the skills they have learnt. They was asked to prepare a work plan relating to their respective duties and work according to that plan. For example the field officers who participated have planned to re-activate a certain number of dorment societies each month, and give a flip to existing sluggish societies.

The unsolicited commendation we received from the experienced Tutor from the Co-operative College in Manchester, on his return after the programme was concluded , speaks for the success of the programme . This has been followed by a write up about the event in the website of the Co-operative College under the caption ‘Co-operating for Peace in Sri Lanka’ . That is a bonus to the CSNHA .

There is no denial that training is a continuing process. None can be expected to become experts in any particular field by following just one or two training programmes. Practicing what has been learnt refines the process and gives new ideas to the practitioners. These ideas need to be shared with others in the field. That necessitates the continuation of training from time to time. Besides, more and more employees and co-operators need to be trained. This cannot be done at the scale and cost with which it was done in Madurai. It should be done at the ground level in the respective Districts, at a much lower cost. The CSNHA is planning to do so in collaboration with the Co-operative College in Manchester and the Provincial Administration in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Any further training has to be at the ground level after a proper survey of the training needs. That can be done only after the unsettled situation prevailing in that part of the country ends. Let us hope that end would dawn sooner than later and our expectations to make the co-operatives play a leading role in the uplift of those affected by the war, would not remain just a dream.

A short note on the Trainers

Stirling Smith is an associate at the Co-operative College, Manchester, England. He began his career in trade union education and worked for the ILO as a Chief Technical Advisor in South Asia from 1992–1994. He has written a number of education manuals for the ILO: Trade unions and child labour (2000); HIV/AIDS and the world of work: an education and training manual (2002) and Social Dialogue (2004). Stirling Smith has worked in more than 20 countries and for a wide range of trade union organisations. He has also written a Guide to another ILO instrument, Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. Currently, his main activities are teaching, writing education materials, project development/project evaluation and social auditing.

Rajani Iqbal, Project Director, Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities; Member of NGO Management Development Centre in Colombo; former Co-ordinator of the War Widows Project of the Centre for Community Development in London; Co-ordinator of Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies (TCCS) in the North, East and Estate Sectors under the Federation of Thrift and Credit Societies; former District Secretary of Jaffna TCCSs; Participant of TCCS training programmes in Bangkok and Malaysia in 1980s. She has followed a NGO Management Training Course at the Manitoba University in Canada.

M.C.M.Iqbal He has had a long career in the civil service of Sri Lanka in holding different positions in the service. For six years in the 1980s he had been an Assistant Commissioner of Co-operative Development in the Districts of Colombo, Jaffna and Mannar. Subsequently, he was attached to the Head Office of the Department of Co-operative Development where he was Assistant Commissioner (Legal) and a visiting lecturer at the Co-operative Training School in Kandy. He is now one of the Directors of the Co-operative Society of Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities.


Consequent to the circulation of the concept note on this subject we were able to convince a few well wishers to contribute to the cost of the training.
Many did not realize the need and value of training the personnel from the co-operatives concerned. They were sceptical about our efforts to provide training, especially by getting them down to India. Yet, fortunately, the following understood the importance of our efforts and agreed to contribute to the cost of the training.

  • Mr. V. Kuhanendran and his associates in NECTAR
  • Dr. Ahilan Nithiananthan of V4U and his friends
  • Ms. Shantha Ganeshanathan of CHRF and her friends.
  • Mr. S. Selvarajah, the Trustee of Ilford Pillaiyar Kovil
  • Mr. Chelliah Ramachandran, a Trustee of the Eealing Amman Kovil

The CSNHA is grateful to staff of the Lady Doak College, Madurai – especially Dr.P.K.M. Tamilarasi of the Tamil Department and Dr. Caroline Nesabai of the Women’s Affairs Division of the College for their unstinted support.
Finally we thank Mr. Mervyn Wilson, the Principal of the Co-operative College in Manchester and his staff, and Mr. Stirling Smith, the able resource person made available to participate in the training.

Co-operative Training organised in Madurai by CSNHA in collaboration with the Co-op College, Manchester

Tutor Report

This is my personal report, as the tutor of the course run by the UK Co-operative College in Madurai 24 – 28 February 2014.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that I have taught hundreds of courses in South Asia since I lived in India in the 1980s and 1990s. So I can compare this course with many others of a similar type.

Selection was good. The right people were on the course. The gender balance was nearly 50:50. There was a good age range.
Participation was excellent, and everybody enjoyed the interactive methods.
Education should try to impart knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes – the last is the hardest thing to do. I was trying to achieve a mind-set change (MSC) from the NGO style of development with a strong pull towards dependency and project proposals towards a self reliant, collective entrepreneurship paradigm; that is what the co-operative business is: collective entrepreneurship. Nearly everybody started the course by stating that they wanted to learn how to write project proposals. They left accepting that they had to write business plans instead.
Indeed, everybody worked on business plans, and these were pulled apart and critiqued. But nobody got offended – they could see that this was to learn the basics of a business plan.
There was also a commitment to accountability. On the last day, everybody prepared a report for their colleagues back in Sri Lanka and committed to giving the report at meetings.
Plans were also prepared to set up new cooperative societies; revive defunct ones; strengthen the wider co-operative movement, develop cooperative education; and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the cooperative sector.
Learners can feel inspired after a week training, but the impetus can be lost when they return to the home environment. A long term programme to build understanding of co-operative enterprise and business skills is required.
My recommendations are that in the next year, the following training should be organised: Training the Trainers – for field workers to deliver all types of training; developing business plans – for field workers and some board members; gender equality in cooperatives – for women members and women board members. Standardised training materials need to be developed for these courses, and for a wider membership education programme..
Stirling Smith
Co-operative College
28 February 2014

Co-operating for peace in Sri Lanka

The Co-operative College’s Stirling Smith has just returned from running a training course for Sri-Lankan co-operators in Madurai, India – here are his impressions.

Imagine meeting a group of people who have all lost a family member or close friend in a brutal civil war. I have just finished teaching such a group in Madurai, in the south of Tamil Nadu. They had all come across the narrow Palk Straits that separate Sri Lanka from India and were from the Tamil minority that has lived in the north of the island previously known as Ceylon for a thousand years. Our English word serendipity comes from an ancient name for the island, but it has not known much serendipity for the last three decades. Around 70,000 died in the civil war between the state and a group that wanted an independent homeland for Tamils, and there was enormous destruction.
Since the end of the Civil War in 2009, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs to use UN jargon) have returned home, and infrastructure has been rebuilt. But as often happens with post disaster reconstruction, livelihoods are neglected. All most donor groups offer is micro-credit schemes.

Co-operatives can offer something more substantial, creating assets through collective entrepreneurship. That is what we have been exploring this week. Normally at the College, the tutor travels to the learners, but the north of Sri Lanka is still quite tense, and the army vets all foreign organisations and training events. So the group came to Madurai, famous in India as home to one the biggest temples in the country.
It was a strange feeling for me to be teaching in India and not understanding the conversations going on around me. After living in India for more than four years and visiting regularly for nearly three decades, I have enough Hindi to get by. But last week, I was surrounded by Tamil speakers. Tamil is a very old language, and the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a rich civilisation. Most people in India know some Hindi or English. But of course my learners did not know Hindi; in fact it’s a miracle they have managed to get to school or college at all, as education was massively disrupted during
the war

The College’s partner for the course was a group of Tamils living in Europe, the Cooperative Society of the Netherlands for Humanitarian Activities (CSNHA), who raised the funds to bring the participants over and provide accommodation and a venue.
Our learners were drawn from four districts in the northern province of Sri Lanka. One hundred years ago, when it was the British colony of Ceylon, Leonard Woolf (perhaps better known as husband of Virginia) was the official in charge of the area. He was a keen supporter of co-operatives and the movement had deep roots.
The war destroyed assets and members were killed or became IDPs. Most co-operatives today are Thrift and Credit societies, like our Credit Unions. But understanding of basic co-operative values and principles is weak. An NGO style of development with a strong pull towards dependency and project proposals has taken root. Nearly everybody started the course by stating that they wanted to learn how to write project proposals. They left accepting that they had to write business plans to revive defunct co-ops or start new ones.

One consequence of the war is the large number of widows, who are naturally struggling to survive, so many new business ideas centred on this group.
I was delighted to find a well-selected group no free loaders with a good balance of men and women, senior leaders and young field workers (the youngest participant was a woman field worker and just 22 years old). A better balance in fact, than we normally find on courses in the UK!

I had prepared course material but at the heart of all Co-operative College education is the learner-centred activities. Getting people to play games and devise and perform plays showing co-operative values can be tricky working through an interpreter, though I was blessed with the services of Varthini. And during group activities, participants can work in their own language. It’s a challenge though, to explain “cash flow forecast” or break-even point”, through a rich, polysyllabic language like Tamil. I would say a sentence and Varthini would seem to talk for five minutes. One word in English equals several in Tamil, it seems.
The National Co-operative Archive, housed at the Co-operative College, was a rich source of case studies. Our learners were fascinated to hear about the visits from Britain to Ceylon in 1902 which led to the purchase of tea estates only nationalised in the 1970s. They were impressed too, when they learnt that the British delegation prepared a detailed report back.
So, on the last day of our course, everybody prepared a report for their colleagues back in Sri Lanka and committed to giving the report at meetings.
Plans were also prepared to set up new co-operative societies; revive defunct ones; strengthen the wider co-operative movement, develop co-operative education; and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the co-operative sector.
Learners can feel inspired after a week training, but the impetus can be lost when they return to the home environment. A long-term programme to build understanding of co-operative enterprise and business skills is required. So now we are in talks with CSNHA about how we can support the war-torn north of Sri Lanka though co-operatives.

Published On: March 13, 2014
Written By: Natalie
Filed Under: Co-operative Learning • Our Heritage • Researching Co-operatives
Tags: co-operative movement, co-operative values and principles, co-operatives, Co-operatives Globally, featured, global, international, National Co-operative Archive, News, our heritage, research, researching, tea, training