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War on poverty; Lanka to produce its own food

6 October 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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President Maithripala Sirisena, moving proactively in the afterglow of the international diplomatic successes in New York and Geneva, on Monday launched what he described as a war to alleviate or eradicate poverty.

Significantly, it was launched at Iranaimadu in the Killinochchi District and among those present was the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran who spoke in Sinhala to assure the Sinhala community that he was not against the Sinhala people and he would fully back the President’s vision, not only for good governance and democracy but also for national food production and social justice.

President Sirisena, now bubbling with confidence, explained that his plan was for Sri Lanka to grow the food we need within three years as part of the war on poverty. He said he believed it was a shame that Sri Lanka had been spending billions of rupees on the import of food we could have grown locally if there were more incentives, encouragement and planning.

The President said that while the war on poverty and the national food production campaign would be commanded by the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture, he expected the support of all State and private institutions for this important national venture to build a new Sri Lanka. He said that uncultivated lands whether they are public or private, would be taken over for a massive food production programme.

By producing the food we need, Sri Lanka would not only save billions in foreign exchange but could  raise the status and dignity especially of the farmer community by giving them the money we were now giving to trans-national food giants.

Most economic experts say that for the past few decades some trans-national food giants have used subtle or sophisticated means to dump most of their garbage or processed rubbish in third-world countries such as Sri Lanka. Therefore the national food production campaign would not only bring economic benefits to the country but also help build healthy Sri Lankans. The recent craze or tendency, especially among the younger people, for fast foods or junk foods has brought about a crisis where more than 20% of Sri Lankans are known to be suffering  from diabetes, which is a silent killer, if not treated through a proper diet and lifestyle. Huge numbers of Lankans have also been afflicted by food and lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases such as high cholesterol and heart ailments.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, addressing a food-related conference last week, lamented that a large number of schoolchildren had also been afflicted by diabetes. Mr. Wickremesinghe said that during his school days he and thousands of children were trained to walk to school after a healthy breakfast of gram or cowpea. But today Sri Lanka was affected by the school-van culture with the children also getting into the habit of having some fast food or junk food.

The ruling United  National Front, in its five-point economic and social development plan presented to the people before the August 17 general elections, did not promise to continue the fertilizer subsidy for farmers. Economists say the Government’s new national food production plan is likely to focus on a gradual shift towards organic farming which though being difficult in the short-term would provide priceless  health benefits in the long-term.

Another negative trend during the past few decades has been the excessive use of imported chemical fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides. Some of these trans-national agro-chemical companies had during the two world wars produced chemicals for the weapons used by the warring countries. After the end of the Korean and Vietnam wars, these TNCs from the 1970s started producing agro-chemicals for which they found dumping grounds mainly in third-world countries such as Sri Lanka. 

The kidney epidemic mainly in the North-Central Province, home base of the President, has killed thousands of farmers and dragged thousands of families into poverty. Most analysts believe this epidemic is directly linked to the excessive use of agro-chemicals. Therefore the President, who is leading another war against this epidemic, will hopefully keep agro-chemicals out of the national food production campaign for the growth of a new eco-friendly Sri Lanka.       
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