The ‘Rural Economic Empowerment Programme initiated by the Citibank in collaboration with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Hatton National Bank in June 2015 assisted over 400 rural entrepreneurs in four rural villages namely; Beralapanathara in Matara District, Dadayamkanda in Ratnapura District, Weheragala in Anuradhapura District and Udappuwa in Puttalam District. The project provided business management training as well as technical training and facilitated financial assistance to the needy entrepreneurs through HNB. The assistance provided through the project helped the rural entrepreneurs, who had not had any formal training on business management before to plan and conduct their businesses in a more organized manner and expand their businesses using the financial assistance extended by HNB.
Satisfied with the success of the first phase of the project, Citi Bank decided to continue its partnership with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Hatton National Bank to uplift the livelihoods of people in rural areas by implementing a second phase of the project targeting a few more remote villages of the country.
The second phase of the Rural Economic Empowerment Project will focus on the same objectives as the first phase with a different geographical coverage. The main objective of the project is to economically empower rural entrepreneurs by supporting them to start and manage sustainable income generation activities/micro enterprises. The specific objectives include; providing entrepreneurship development and business management training, providing technical know-how on income generation/micro enterprises as well as for improvement of quality of products and productivity of business operations, improving financial literacy and financial management skills , improving access to finance through facilitating linkages with banks and formal financial institutes and offering business development services (BDS) to manage the business operations profitably and sustainably
As done in the first phase of the project, Citibank will provide overall direction and financial resources, guidance and professional expertise for training and capacity building of prospective entrepreneurs for successful implementation of the second phase. Citibank’s active support for this initiative epitomizes its commitment towards promoting the livelihood development at grassroots level globally through sustainable financial inclusion. Citi Sri Lanka together with Citi Foundation has engaged in many CSR projects since its inception, demonstrating its dedication towards enhancing the economic opportunities for individuals and families of Sri Lanka and this project is a continuation of their CSR efforts to improve the businesses and living conditions of rural entrepreneurs.
The second phase of the project has planned to assist rural entrepreneurs in a few remote villages in Galle and Anuradhapura Districts. The Ceylon Chamber in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture of the Southern Provincial Council and the Galle District Chamber of Commerce identified Maththaka, Niyagama, Poddiwela, Porowagama and Thalgaswala villages with a large number of rural entrepreneurs waiting for both management and financial assistance to improve and expand their businesses. The Chamber and HNB first conducted an awareness session for 81 beneficiaries from above villages and collected baseline data on their current business activities, issues faced by them and assistance required. The project conducted 3 training programs for 61 selected entrepreneurs on introduction to entrepreneurship, generating concrete business ideas and preparation of business plans as per the foundation module of “Way to Improve Your Business” developed by the ILO accredited “Start and Improve Your Business” (SIYB) Program. Mr. Kithsiri Dharmapriya an experienced business management expert accredited as Master Trainer of SIYB as well as IFC “Business Edge” Training Program conducted the training program using a participatory approach. HNB has already disbursed loans to a few beneficiaries, who required urgent assistance and is in the process of evaluating business plans of other trained beneficiaries with the objective of extending loan facilities within the shortest possible time. The project will identify the needs for technical training as well as impediments faced by the project beneficiaries and will facilitate technical training and Business Development Services (BDS) to resolve such issues/impediments.
The second phase activities in Anuradhapura District was commenced in collaboration with the North Central Provincial Council and the Anuradhapura District Chamber of Commerce. The project conducted the awareness session and baseline data collection of prospective rural entrepreneurs in Nochchiyagama and Nachchaduwa Divisional Secretariat areas with the participation of 55 and 56 beneficiaries respectively. HNB officers, who were present at the awareness sessions found that there were many promising entrepreneurs among the participants and had expressed keen interest to extend financial assistance to all entrepreneurs with viable business ideas. The Chamber has now analyzed the baseline data of above beneficiaries and planned to commence business management training based on “Way to Improve Your Business” module by mid June.
The project will work closely with project partners i.e. the Southern and North Central Provincial Council and the District Chambers of Commerce in Galle and Anuradhapura to identify more needy beneficiaries from the selected villages and surrounding areas to expand the beneficiary base to reach the targeted no of beneficiaries well ahead of the targeted dates.