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EU hands over new homes under ‘Homes not Houses’ project



Ushathevi and her family pictured in front of their Habitat house in Villavettuvan village, Batticaloa, constructed with compressed stabilized earth blocks

Implemented by Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka and World Vision Lanka

Representatives of the European Union (EU) ceremoniously handed over homes to owners under the ‘Homes not Houses’ project, a EUR 14 million EU funded project, implemented in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka and World Vision Lanka successfully concluded this multi-year, multi-faceted undertaking that empowered more than 2,370 conflict-affected families to resettle and rebuild their lives and future through sustainable housing and community economic development.

“Our lives have taken a turn for the better. We now dare to dream of a better future for our children who want to be doctors, teachers and bankers to contribute to the development of our country. We cannot express in words the hardships we faced during the war but we can express our heartfelt gratitude towards all those who assisted us to rebuild, resettle and regain our dignity. There are many more families who need help just like us. We hope they too will receive the same support”, expressed home-owner Nagalingam Sandiran of Karaichchi, Kilinochchi.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony in Kilinochchi, EU Ambassador Denis Chaibi said “This project is about investing in people, particularly those who have gone through the hardships of violent conflict, to build on their resilience. We hope that as we invest in people, these beneficiaries will also invest in themselves and each other by working together in ways that will bring results and advance peace and reconciliation. The “Homes not Houses” project is also noteworthy for its approach, prioritising owner-driven, environmentally friendly construction. So, it is an amalgam of two EU priorities: investing in people and preserving the environment.”

“Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka was honoured to work alongside families in need of safe and secure housing where children can study and play in a healthy environment while parents can focus on improving their livelihoods and communities can contribute to social cohesion” said Yu Hwa Li, National Director, Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka. “We greatly appreciate the unwavering support of the European Union and World Vision Lanka that ensured a successful completion.”

With this project the EU concluded its decade long “Aid to Uprooted People” programme in the country, during which the EU provided more than EUR 50 million towards owner-driven reconstruction for over 20,000 households and internally displaced persons affected by conflicts. In addition, as compared to other existing housing programmes in the country, the project adopted an innovative “home owner driven” approach where the households contributed directly to the design and construction of their home. It also featured the use of innovative, sustainable and low-carbon construction technologies and materials locally produced such as compressed stabilized earth blocks1 with about 45% of the houses built. It is known as one of the best examples of Habitat’s climate-sensitive initiatives where families and masons had opportunities to learn about the benefits and utilize sustainable construction technologies and materials that are an alternative to mining sand known for their negative impact on the environment but also an alternative to use of costly and carbon intensive imported cement.

Also present was the Government Agent for Kilinochchi Rubawathy Ketheeswaran who oversees the development work by several NGOs and state entities in the North related to the resettlement of IDPs. Commenting on the project Mrs. Ketheeswaran said, “It was my responsibility to promote this project’s unique concept of eco-friendly construction concept and I was able to enlighten the people about its benefits in terms of the cooling effect and efficiency in electricity consumption.”

The project also featured an economic and livelihood development component. About 46,000 people improved their self-sufficiency through skills training and livelihood support in husbandry, agriculture, home-based construction enterprises, and built resilience through disaster risk reduction mapping and drainage and culvert improvements. “It’s wonderful to see the impact of this partnership between the European Union, Habitat for Humanity and World Vision” said Shelby Stapleton, Director of International Resource development and Management, World Vision Lanka “Working together with the government and community to secure livelihoods and homes, not houses, is critical for stability and cohesion, and we are thrilled to see the fruits of this labour today”

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ComBank partners with PayHere to offer Q+ users a unique eCommerce experience



Commercial Bank’s Group Chief Marketing Officer Mr Hasrath Munasinghe (2nd from right) and PayHere Founder/CEO, Mr Dhanika Perera (2nd from left) exchange the agreement in the presence of PayHere Head of Developments, Mr Karvin Mendis (extreme left) and the Bank’s Senior Manager – Card Centre Mr Seevali Wickramasinghe.

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has partnered with PayHere, Sri Lanka’s largest Aggregated Internet Payment Gateway Service, to offer users of its Q+ Payment App a unique, user-friendly and secure eCommerce experience.

Commercial Bank customers can now conveniently pay for their purchases via the Q+ app to over 3300 registered PayHere Online Payment Service enabled merchants. The Bank’s Credit, Debit and Prepaid Card holders who pay through Q+, the fastest-growing QR app in the country, will not be required to tap in their card details as this information is already stored on the app, the Bank said.

Payments to PayHere merchants via the Q+ Online Pay facility will enhance customer convenience as the transaction will only require the entering of users’ mobile numbers registered with the app. Disbursements via Q+ require authentication using a static PIN which ensures the safety and security of transactions, making the Q+ App more secure than a normal card as the customers’ sensitive data is not transmitted to merchant websites.

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TAMAP drives Stakeholder Forum for Good Agriculture Practice



Secretary of Agriculture Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe addressing the forum

The inaugural meeting of the GAP Stakeholder Forum was held with the support of the Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme (TAMAP) at the Department of Agriculture in Peradeniya on 17 November 2021. Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programme, introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 2016, was a promising step taken to minimise adverse impacts of agriculture on the ecosystem and human health while meeting steadily rising demand for food. Although the programme had an encouraging start, the overall conversion of farmers to implementing GAP remained low. Over the past six years, 1500 farmers registered as GAP producers out of the 1.8 million farmers in Sri Lanka. To align with the current policy of the Sri Lankan Government to improve ecological friendliness of farming, it is important to transform all production units towards GAP farms.

Studies showed that to achieve this goal, the GAP implementation strategies needed to be updated and infused into the mainstream agriculture, facilitating a quick transformation of the current approach towards a macro-level system. Therefore, the requirement for a rapid strategizing of such an approach followed by periodic review of GAP performance arose. This initiated the need for a stakeholder forum.

The key purpose of the forum is to provide a common platform for key stakeholders to meet in formulating a strategy to mainstream SL GAP, propose a way forward for implementation such recommendations, and to regularly review program performance and adopt remedial action to achieve GAP objectives.

Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture who chaired the Forum in his opening statement commented, “GAP programme has emerged a solution to challenges faced by Sri Lankan agriculture today to improve safety of users and ensuring good environmental performance. Reinforced by facilitating legislation and approved national standards, GAP programme provides a strong foundation towards addressing above concerns.”.

Over forty participants were present at the forum, representing the various stakeholder groups comprising producers, distributers, SL GAP team, academics, and market players. Ms D. S. Ratnasinghe, Addl. Director (Agribusiness) and Dr W. M. W. Weerakoon, National Coordinator outlined the status of the GAP programme and the challenges faced.

The deliberations during the forum were broken down into five main areas: Technical, financial, institutional, and social problems faced by GAP stakeholders on maintaining production, supply, product quality, and consumer trust. Gaps in technology transfer and adoption, marketing and quality control measures and means for increased rate of adoption and GAP farm certification; Gaps in current GAP process and procedures, user friendliness and applicability; Future technological needs towards increasing production, productivity, product quality and ecosystem sustainability; and Policy needs for increased adoption of GAP to mainstream GAP into national agriculture agenda.

Prof. G. Pushpakumara, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya and Ms Jayantha Ilankoon, ADG (Dev) moderated the forum through group activity, outcome presentations and strategic discussions on the way forward.

Concluding the forum, Dr Nihal Atapattu, stated, “TAMAP, along with the European Union that provided the funding support is very pleased to have assisted to launch several interventions that would promote recognition of GAP as a premier means of strengthening Sri Lankan agriculture in sustainably meet requirements of the domestic and export markets. TAMAP expects that the Stakeholder Forum launched today will be a milestone event in advancing GAP to achieve its potential in Sri Lanka”.

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HNB’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments wins Daraz award



Daraz Managing Director Rakhil Fernando (fourth from left) handing over the award to HNB Head of Cards – Gauthami Niranjan. Also present (from left): Daraz Partnerships Nimesh Dasanayake, Daraz Senior Manager – Prepayments Sandamina Rajapaksha, Daraz Head of Partnerships Dulika Jayamanne, HNB Cards Business Development Executive - Ashokan Harishanna, HNB Assistant Manager - Cards Business Development and Portfolio Management - Imanka Keshini Hikkaduwage and HNB Cards Business Development Executive – Roshan Chaminda Perera.

HNB has been recognized by Daraz for exceptional contribution to its growth, in an independent endorsement of Sri Lanka’s leading private bank’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments throughout the country.

The award, for the ‘Card Base with Highest Overall Growth’, was presented to HNB at the ‘Daraz Payment Partner Performance Awards 2021’. HNB, which ranks among Daraz’s best banking partners, recorded the highest growth on total payment volume, buyer engagement and total transactions month-on-month, for both credit and debit cards for the year 2020-2021.

“This award is an important validation how the local economy – both businesses and consumers – are benefiting from HNB’s cohesive programme to drive greater adoption of e-commerce and digital payments,” HNB Head of Cards, Gauthami Niranjan said. “These efforts are particularly significant at present, given how digital and contactless payments can assist in reducing the spread of the pandemic and support the Bank’s and the country’s vision to transform Sri Lanka to a cashless economy.”

Currently, HNB Cardholders enjoy multiple offers on Daraz, Sri Lanka’s leading online marketplace, a wholly-owned subsidiary of global e-commerce giant, the Alibaba Group. These include zero-interest instalment plans up to 48 months with attractive discounts for HNB Credit and Debit Cards and 10% off site-wide on Daraz for all HNB Credit Cards on purchases made during Saturdays. In addition, HNB tied up with Daraz for its 11:11 and Black Friday sales, which provided HNB Cardholders access to a range of offers and massive discounts.

HNB has been a pioneer in Sri Lanka’s banking industry in the digital banking and digital payments space. These include the launch of digital wallet and payment app, HNB SOLO and introducing Asia’s first-ever fitness-linked savings product in the form of the HNB FIT Savings Account.

With 254 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically-innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd. The bank was also ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine for five consecutive years. HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020.

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