Asanka joined LIRNEasia in December 2008 while working on his research project for his MPhil in Environmental Management, at the Forestry Department of the Sri Jayewardenepura University, Sri Lanka. He worked as a researcher at LIRNEasia until August 2010, mainly on the 3R project on solid-waste management, under Dr Sujata Gamage.
“I am currently finalising my thesis,” says Asanka, adding that his research is on ‘Factors affecting the effectiveness of onsite composting programmes conducted by local authorities in Sri Lanka.’ Asanka says his time at LIRNEasia “definitely had a direct and very strong influence on my current work and also my thesis.”
Asanka, who is an entrepreneur with business interests in compost manufacturing and vegetable exports, says it was his exposure at LIRNEasia that motivated him to start his own business ventures. “I am currently involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures, including manufacturing and retailing compost and exporting fresh vegetables to the Maldives and Dubai. This process started with my research work at LIRNEasia,” says Asanka.
Working on the 3R project, Asanka had the opportunity to travel around the country, to gather information on solid-waste management techniques. In doing so, he observed a market gap between compost manufacturers and farmers. While compost manufacturers could not find buyers for their outputs, farmers in some parts of the country could not find quality compost to use as fertilizer.
“I identified a large, unmet demand for compost in areas such as Puttlam, Kalpitiya and Norochcholai. Therefore, I decided to start my own compost site in the area of Kobbeigane, in the Kurunegala District, to market the compost to farmers in Puttalam. So my compost manufacturing venture is a direct result of my exposure while working at LIRNEasia,” explains Asanka.
In the process of operating his compost venture, Asanka established contact with a company that had business interests in Dubai. The company was looking for fresh vegetable supplies to export to Dubai. “This led to my next venture in September 2011, of exporting fresh vegetables to Dubai and later to the Maldives. As this is still a very new operation, I am still in the process of organising and consolidating by business,” says Asanka.
Due to these reasons, says Asanka, “I can say that LIRNEasia not only had a very strong influence on my current occupation, but that my current occupation is very much a result of LIRNEasia.”