he National Government will today reach a landmark in its journey when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, outlines in Parliament a medium-term economic strategy, with the centerpiece being sustainable, eco-friendly rural development for the benefit mainly of the needy or impoverished people.
For thousands of years, organic agriculture has been a vital part of the heart of Sri Lanka’s time honoured culture and civilisation. Those were the good old days, as a famous author said, that the Sri Lankan farmer when the mud is washed off his back would be fit to be a king. Tragically during the past four decades these kings and their families have been plunged deep into mud holes of degradation, destitution and deprivation.
The Prime Minister’s policy statement today will be the first major step towards liberating the farmers and the rural people from slavery and restoring their dignity to play an important role in the new eco-friendly agricultural process where organic farming will be given priority with a multitude of incentives and State encouragement. It is likely that the new government, instead of continuing with huge subsidies for imported agro-chemicals which have polluted Mother Earth will instead offer substantial financial incentives to buy or make natural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
President Maithripala Sirisena, working closely with the Prime Minister, announced last month the government would launch a new mission from next year to grow all the nutritious food we need in Sri Lanka itself without continuing to be a dumping ground for imported garbage or artificial food.
In terms of the new strategy some 23 rural development economic zones are to be set up to turn Sri Lanka into a global home garden. This will require the delicate blending of our ancient culture and traditions with the marvels of modern technology so that the unpolluted Sri Lankan food would be hailed as tasty and healthy even in competitive world markets.
One of Sri Lanka’s leading organic farming experts Ranjith Seneviratne, who was a top executive in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for more than two decades, has outlined some modern, creative and imaginative proposals for sustainable organic farming.
The experienced and enlightened expert describes this as Regenerative Farming. The latest ideas on natural agriculture promotes “Regenerative Farming” or cooperating with the natural eco balances that prevail in forests, to regenerate the soil which usually has been farmed incorrectly for many decades through methods such as tilling. This is because today “no-till” processes are recommended so as not to disturb the natural living processes of the soil organisms. These include various soil organisms, different types of earth worms, other worms, fungus types, microbes and insects. They all live in a dynamic matrix each with its own niche in the soil, but positioned to interact with each other.
According to Mr. Seneviratne some fungi are known to have their own matrix or a kind of network that could extend over the whole land area and even encompass the next door farmlands. The old system of tilling or turning the soil over, disturbs this living matrix, negatively affecting soil health. Now the soil itself is regarded as a living entity.
Regenerative farming attempts to regenerate the soil by following the examples that prevail in forests. There is automatic weed control through the layer of leaf and twigs or mulch on top of the soil, automatic composting by the bottom layers of the same mulch, while the top layer dries out during the day and absorbs moisture during the night making watering unnecessary except perhaps during severe drought.
We hope the President and the Prime Minister will be open to guidance and direction from people-friendly and eco-friendly agricultural experts such as Mr. Seneviratne, instead of being misled by agents of transnational giants who are today leading the battle for economic neo-colonialism.