Agriculture, a contributor to socio-economic well-being

Agriculture, a contributor to socio-economic well-being

Agriculture has long been of high importance to Sri Lanka’s economy
and society. It contributes 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and
has 34 percent of country’s employment according to the 2006 report of
the Centre of Environmental Justice (CEJ). It is the most important
source of employment for majority of Sri Lanka’s workforce.
Approximately 38 percent of the total labour force is engaged in
agriculture according to 1999 statistics.

Environmentalist Thilak Kandegama delivering his lecture

Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI)
held a lecture series for journalists recently to make them aware of
agriculture and to create an attitudinal change in the society about
agriculture. It was held in Nuwara-Eliya from June 15 to 17 with the
participation of lecturers such as Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, Prof. Rohana
Lakshman Piyadasa and environmentalist Thilak Kandegama.

Modern methods and techniques

Environmental agriculture had special focus in this programme and
environmentalist Thilak Kandegama conducted several lectures on the

Experts say modern methods and techniques which are used in the
agriculture field are harmful to health and environment. According to
farmers they have reverted to traditional methods in farming to reduce
risks. Local health experts say producing food by using traditional
methods are nutritious and not harmful to the environment.

Kandegama said the sun and the moon affect agriculture activities and
the sunrays that fall on to the earth tend to vary the life circle of
plants. When supplying water for the growth of plants, the moon is very
important. The moon, sun and other ancient practices lead to a good
harvest, experts said.

Traditional methods are eco-friendly. Such eco-friendly farming
methods and techniques help preserve the environment and consumers’
health. Using modern methods and techniques cause various illnesses such
as cancer, skin infections and kidney problems, experts point out.

With the goal of introducing an environmentally friendly farming
system to Sri Lanka, a 12 acre farm commenced in Nawalapitiya in 2009
and it is now popular as Kandegedara ecological farm.

Training programmes

According to Kandegama, the ancient Chena cultivation method is the
most suitable and simple traditional farming method in Sri Lanka. Before
using any other cultivation method, farmers should pay attention to the
geographical location of Sri Lanka as it is a country which is the most
biodiverse than other countries in the world, he said.

A farmer and his wife attending to their vegetables

When following the Chena cultivation method, first the location for
plantation need to be assessed. After that the land is cleared and
burned. Then Kurahan seeds are planted and when they grow six inches,
crops seeds are planted. When they grow nine inches other plants such as
vegetables, fruits and flowers are planted in the nutrient-rich soil.

Then it will become a successful Chena or Nava Dalu Chena. Thus the
environment provides elements to control insect without any chemicals.

We have visited vegetable farms in Nuwara-Eliya and we have held
discussions with farmers there as part of a training programme, he said.
It helps all journalists to have a good knowledge about the agriculture
field in Sri Lanka.

HARTI Director Lalith Kantha Jayasekara, Deputy Director Dr. L. P.
Rupasinghe, Human Resources and Institutional Development Unit’s Head
Dr. M. S. Senanayake, Agriculture Policies and Project Evaluation Unit’s
Head J. K. M. D. Chandrasiri, News and Publication Unit’s Head Pujitha
De Mel and Information and Publication Officers C. U. Senanayake and
Wathsala Gamage also participated in this programme.

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