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Rice and Recovery

Sri Lanka, March 23, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Community groups established by Mercy Corps are disbursing small loans to women in self-employed cottage industries, like basketweaving. With an $88 loan, Veni purchased new tools and better-quality materials that have increased monthly sales by 67 percent. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Seeds, fertilizers and fences, along with agricultural trainings, are helping raise crop yields and build backyard gardens — a key weapon against rising food costs. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Increased food costs have eaten into Kirushanthy's family savings. With $122 loan, she's joined her mother in the family's traditional business, ladle making, and the two have increased production from 60 to 200 a week. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    We convinced an established Colombo-based shoe company to open a new factory in eastern Sri Lanka, an area scarred by conflict and where formal jobs are scarce. Seventy people, mostly women, now hold full-time jobs — many for the first time. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps-provided fencing material helps keep hungry goats and wandering cows out of Saroja's betel-leaf garden, while organic fertilizer is squeezing more yield from her chili peppers. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    This couple survived the tsunami by clinging to the tops of palm trees. With Mercy Corps' help, they're now using the land to grow eggplant and chili peppers. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    A new milk-processing center launched by Mercy Corps and a partner NGO — the only one in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province — employs eight people and supports a consortium of 50 dairy farmers. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Small rice mills are a critical part of the nation's rice industry. We've supported 36 mill owners, like Farouk, who lost equipment in the tsunami. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Sri Lanka's violence has forced Tamilchevi from her land in eastern Sri Lanka several times, most recently when the Army fought a successful campaign to dislodge the Tamil Tiger rebels. Today she's benefiting from our project to distribute seeds and introduce organic growing methods to small-scale rice farmers. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Harvest time means work for thousands of laborers, who take home a portion of paddy in lieu of cash. About a third of all agricultural land in Sri Lanka is devoted to paddy cultivation. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Anushika hopes to quadruple the income of her husband, a rickshaw driver, by raising tropical fish for domestic and international sale. Mercy Corps is supporting 50 households with fish, tanks and connections to buyers. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    A new Mercy Corps-supported coconut oil factory employs 18 people, mostly women and some who were relocated to this village after the tsunami. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Take a twilight cruise on the mangrove-filled Walawe River and you're sure to see langur monkeys, peacocks, blue-and-green parakeets, long-necked Indian darters and white-bellied sea eagles. We helped a group of local environmentalists start this boat tour to bolster ecotourism. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    These women are making lace to sell in a Mercy Corps-supported handicrafts shop that's part of a school for kids with disabilities. The woman in the foreground, Nilushan, has a four-year-old daughter who cannot speak nor hear. Mercy Corps is helping the school take advantage of its beachfront location and provide income opportunities for mothers of its students. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Watching traditional brassmakers perform their trade is one of the "12 Things Not To Miss in the Deep South," a tourism initiative led by Mercy Corps and the Hambantota Chamber of Commerce. (See www.deepsouth.lk for the other 11.) Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    In southern and eastern Sri Lanka, Mercy Corps is helping promote the "SRI" method of growing rice. Smallholders can use the System of Rice Intensification to achieve better yields using fewer seeds, less water and no chemicals. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    A year ago, this acre of rice was a thicket of reeds growing on land considered too expensive to cultivate. But the System of Rice Intensification opened up 15 to 20 acres of previously dry land for rice cultivation in Yahangala East. Across Sri Lanka, 1.8 million families grow rice. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps continues to help Sri Lanka "build back better" from the tsunami, and focus on the country's culinary staple — rice — as a way to lift farmers' incomes and protect families against global price shocks.