By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): In a bid to strengthen food security in Sri Lanka, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the European Union (EU), yesterday (22 April) officially launched a new programme of boosting the productivity and sustainability of the paddy cultivation sector.
The four million Euro (approximately Rs. 1.5 billion) initiative funded by the EU was initiated at an event held at the Bataatha Agro Technology park in Hambanthota under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera, EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka Denis Chaibi and FAO Representative in Sri Lanka Vimlendra Sharan.
Implemented by FAO with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Mahaweli Authority, the programme targets 71,000 smallholder paddy farmers and 1,200 paddy seed farmers across seven districts including Polonnaruwa, Badulla, Ampara, Matale, Puttalam, Kurunegala and Hambantota districts who were severely impacted by the recent economic crisis.
Speaking at the event, which saw the official start of the farmer field schools EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Denis Chaibi said, “With this new action, EU wants to help farmers not only to grow more, but most importantly to grow better so that they can increase their production and incomes, but also protect the environment around them.”
He expressed the hope that together with FAO and the Government FAO with funding from Eu can gradually promote a transition towards greener and climate-smart agriculture.
The recipient farmers will receive material and technical support to transition from traditional cultivation methods into climate-smart, modern farming techniques.
Accordingly, the eligible paddy farmers cultivating up to 0.5 hectares of land will receive 50 kilograms of urea fertilizer and the necessary tools to enhance efficiency of fertilizer use.
A total of 3,820 tonnes of urea fertilizer procured by the programme were already handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture to be distributed among selected smallholder paddy farmers and paddy seed farmers.
Paddy seed farmers supported through the programme will also receive locally produced, high quality paddy seeds alongside material support such as parachute trays to improve efficiency and profitability of cultivation methods.
Furthermore, all recipients will be enrolled in farmer-field schools to improve knowledge sharing on modern techniques such as the Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM) strategy to boost efficiency and reduce dependency on the use of chemical fertilizer.
Minister Amaraweera said Sri Lanka paddy farmers underwent significant challenges over the past few years. This support we received from FAO and the EU is a testament to their perseverance during the tough times
These inputs and knowledge sharing will no doubt elevate the quality of rice production and the livelihoods of Sri Lankan paddy farmers”, he said.
“This programme marks an important milestone in FAO’s work in Sri Lanka over the past year – the shift back into development from the emergency response. FAO Representative in Sri Lanka, Vimlendra Sharan said.
The EU and FAO have assured their continued support to work closely with the government of Sri Lanka and key partners to support the recovery of the agriculture sector, while also building resilience and sustainability into the sector to increase yield and profit for smallholder farmers as the sector recovers.