‘Political settlement can revive agriculture in Sri Lanka’

(August 07, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan has said that the political substrate conditions is essential for the revival of agriculture and fisheries in a speedy and successful manner, which are present lacking in Northern Sri Lanka.

Speaking to reporters here on the proposed Government of India Programme for the Renewal of Agriculture in Northern Sri Lanka, he said M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) would wait for a political settlement before taking part in the agriculture renaissance in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

‘Around 80 per cent of the population of the Northern Province, comprising the districts of Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mullaithivu, Mannar and Vavuniya, depend on farm and fishing for income. Prior to the conflict, the province had a cultivable area of about 3 lakh hectares of which over 1 lakh were for rice cultivation.

The rest had onion, fruits, vegetables and coconut. At the moment it is not known what extent can be farmed. ‘There has been much damage to the ecological foundations of agriculture, such as soil, water and biodiversity, due to planting of mines, erection of protective structures and other security measures’, he said.

‘It was an agricultural paradise before the conflict. There are large numbers of fisher-families along the coast. The Tamil farmers of the province have been the custodians of Sri Lanka’s food security, much the same way the Sikh farmers of Punjab contribute a large part of the wheat and rice for India’s public distribution system’, Swaminathan pointed out.

‘We will not build an irrigation security system, which is essential for an agricultural revival in the island nation, until there is a political settlement for the Tamils,’ he said.

Speaking to News Today about the methods to be taken for the revival of agriculture in Sri Lanka, he said farmers should be introduced to conservation farming and integrated pest management and integrated natural resources management.

‘We (India) can also provide seeds, biofertilizers and biopesticides, farm equipment and post-harvest infrastructure.

Good quality seed is a major constraint. Seed Villages can be organised under a Government of India-supported programme,’ he added.
-Sri Lanka Guardian