Sri Lanka goes organic: La Tribune India

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Devinder Sharma

Food and agriculture specialist

It was planned. The outcry over Sri Lanka’s groundbreaking decision to go organic is predictable. The same arguments, the same kind of fear psychosis and the scarecrow of ideological thinking that will turn the world backwards should no longer surprise. Any possible disturbance of the balance of power dominated by the agribusiness giants will certainly be offset by an orchestra playing the usual bad concerto.

Even before the United Nations Food Systems Summit recognized the need to move towards healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems, Sri Lanka had made the bold decision a few months earlier to implement the concept. agro-ecological transformation by banning imports of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, through a notification in the Official Journal on May 6. In the aftermath of the ban on palm oil imports and the directive for producers to gradually uproot existing plantations, Sri Lanka has shown remarkable determination to make a transition to a healthy and sustainable future for the country. Agriculture.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 22, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “Sustainability is the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s national policy framework. Due to the impact on soil fertility, biodiversity, waterways and health, my government completely banned the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedkillers earlier this year, “adding that” the production and adoption of organic fertilizers as well as investments in agriculture is encouraged.

For a country under the weight of huge external debt, with up to 80 percent of revenue collected for debt servicing, and at the same time facing severe food shortages in his country, Sri Lankan President s He is so far strongly opposed to the panic being created in the name of growing food insecurity resulting from an anticipated decline in production. It reminds me of a similar type of pressure created days after former Indonesian President Suharto all at once banned the use of 57 chemical pesticides on paddy under a presidential decree in the late 1980s. C ‘was in response to an unprecedented attack of brown leafhopper pests on rice, and it was on the advice of the International Rice Research Institute and the Food and Food Organization of the United Nations Agriculture (FAO) that the late President Suharto then launched integrated pest management in rice. .

An impression is created as if Sri Lanka’s food crisis was the result of the nation’s move towards organic farming. Well, that’s incorrect, propaganda fomented by the chemical industry. In reality, the ban on chemical fertilizers and pesticides only came into effect at the beginning of May, and since then there is only one growing season, called yala – sown in May. and harvested in August, but even before the crop hit the market, fears of declining yields were already rife. It is usually in the second and third year after stopping chemical use that yields are seen to decline before stabilizing and then slowly starting to increase. In any case, the external cost that intensive farming systems leave behind is often seen as a price that society inevitably has to pay. For example, the northern rice belt is witnessing severe kidney failure among the rural poor, which many believe is linked to the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, while a number of experts dismiss such a link.

A report from The Independent says more than 20,000 people have died of chronic kidney disease and sickened over 4 lakh in the past 20 years. Also in the case of tea, the second largest export commodity, again unnecessary fear is created. Yields are already very low, with FAO estimating that yields have steadily declined over the past decade, dropping to 350 to 400 kg per acre in large areas, and even 150 kg per acre in some cases. With nearly 75 percent of tea farmers being small, soil degradation is one of the main reasons for declining yields. The advantage of going completely organic is that in the years to come, by applying appropriate agro-ecological approaches in cultivation practices, Sri Lanka will be able to build on the health of the soil, thus rejuvenating the tea gardens. It can create a niche in the global market with the organic label being its USP. Considering that the demand for organic food products is increasing globally, Sri Lanka is placed in an advantageous position, given its lead, provided of course that the right steps are taken to guide the transition.

Sri Lanka’s challenge is to rethink its research, development and production approaches. It must first reorient the national agricultural research programs by appropriately modifying the teaching program. Research priorities must change based on validation and protection of community knowledge and innovations. Especially in dealing with the complexities of climate change, traditional varieties and the wealth of diversity available offer immense resilience. We must ensure that the transformation process is participatory; Imposing it on farmers will not work in the long run.

For those who doubt that agroecology – and that includes organic, natural and biodynamic farming systems, etc. Food security and nutrition, details the ways. It also cites a meta-analysis (2017) by Raffaele D’Annaolfo et al which conclusively highlighted the economic gains from agro-ecological farming systems. Thus, the yields increased in 61 percent of the cases analyzed, decreased in 20 percent, while the profitability of the farms increased in 66 percent of the cases.

It takes courage to stand alone. And that only happens when you believe in something. Rajapaksa’s appointment with organic farming could potentially open the door to the future of global agriculture.


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