How traditional organic paddy cultivation is thriving despite

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How traditional organic paddy cultivation is thriving despite Powered By Docstoc
					6                                                                                                                                                                                                                    SuStainable SolutionS                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Nation EYE Sunday October 5, 2008                       7

                                                                                                                                                                              Fields of gold
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Interesting patterns in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       paddy cultivation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Number of farmers vs. area under
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             cultivation on a national scale



















                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No. of farmers



                                                                                                                                                                            How traditional organic paddy cultivation is thriving despite adverse                                                                                                                                                                                     Acres under cultivation

                                                                                                                                                                            weather conditions and flooding                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      460,747


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Less than 2 acres            More than 2 acres

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The graph depicts that the majority of farmers, 646,682,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      cultivate only less than 2 acres of land. Their total land
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      amounts to 460,747 acres. However, over 250,323
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      farmers cultivate 757,267 acres of land. Each of these
Fields of paddy sway in the breeze. Grains of rice glitter in gold. Groups of farmers plough their fields...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          250,323 own more than 2 acres.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Farmers who cultivate less than 2 acres are designated
But, by the standards of our sophisticated world, these farmers are none other than a ‘marginalised                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   as small scale farmers.
group,’ destitute and sidelined, living in an area predisposed to disasters. Yet, they possess a treasure
– an invaluable assortment of traditional paddy varieties – that has the potential of revolutionising the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Distribution of paddy lands according
agricultural world. Having realised this potential, a development organisation known as the Practical                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        to the nature of irrigation schemes
Action, initiated a programme to prompt marginalised small scale farmers in selected South Asian
countries to engage in organic farming of traditional paddy varieties and thereby transform market                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Percent distribution of paddy cultivation according
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      to the nature of irrigation
systems. Their work in southern Sri Lanka is progressing in leaps and bounds. “We are mobilising
communities, popularising organic farming and vying with contemporary markets,” they say. Their
flourishing fields of golden grains testify their success.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               57%                         21%

The Nation treks the fields of gold…
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Large scale Irrigation

             By Sustainability Indicator                          The Nilwala saga                                                                                                                      will be carried out in abandoned paddy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Small scale irrigation

                                                                                                                                                                                                        lands, strictly under organic farming
                   addy cultivation has been part and          The Nilwala river basin and its associ-                                                                                                  practices.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Rain-fed irrigation
                   parcel of both ancient and con-         ated traditional paddy cultivation system
                   temporary Sri Lanka. The rainfall       in the Matara district, in southern Sri                                                                                                              Comprehensive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   22%
             distribution patterns of the island, its
             geographical relief, river systems and
                                                           Lanka, is receiving heightened attention
                                                           in this regard. This attention by large is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  research                                                                                                                                                                                                            57 % of the total paddy cultivation depends on large
             manmade tanks have sustained, and con-        directed at a group of traditional farmers                                                                                                     In addition to this, the project also                                                                                                                                                                                       scale irrigation systems. Yet another 21 % depends on
             tinue to sustain a variety of paddy culti-    restricted to a small zone in the lower ba-                                                                                                  envisages carrying out comprehensive                                                                                                                                                                                          small scale irrigation systems. The rest of the cultivation
             vation patterns within the country Most       sin, who cultivate a traditional variety of                                                                                                  scientific research on Ma Wee. This
             prominently these patterns vary geo-
                            ,                                                                                                                                                                           endeavour is backed by academia of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (22 %) is rain-fed.
                                                           paddy known as ‘Ma Wee’ amidst many
             graphically i.e., as low country and up       difficulties. Ma Wee is a strain of paddy  ,                                                                                                 leading universities in Sri Lanka, and
             country climatically as wet zone and dry
                     ,                                     well suited to grow in areas predisposed                                                                                                     government research institutes. The                                                                                                                                                                                           The patterns of paddy cultivation vs. nature of irrigation
             zone and seasonally as Yala and Maha.         to flooding and is also capable of render-                                                                                                   researches will be conducted with the                                                                                                                                                                                         in the southern province are pretty varied. The three
             As of today there are over 90,000 farmers     ing a high yield under relative low inputs                                                                                                   involvement of grassroots communi-
             cultivating over 1,220,000 acres of paddy .                                                                                                                                                ties and will look into the biological
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      districts, i.e., Galle, Matara and Hambantota follow three
                                                           and resistant to pests and diseases.
             The majority of these paddy lands still           The Ma Wee cultivation in the lower                                                                                                      aspects, cultural aspects and environ-                                                                                                         The major portion                 approximately LKR 3800 million on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         chemical fertiliser subsidies. The sub-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      quite different patterns. Galle and Hambantota occupy
             exist in the dry zone of the country 57 %     Nilwala basin traces its roots back to an                                                                                                    mental aspects of Ma Wee and associ-                                                                                                                                                                                          two extremes, while Matara occupies a middle position.
             of the total paddy cultivation depends on     interesting tale.                                                                                                                            ated traditional cultivation systems.                                                                                                         of traditional                     sidy per acre is LKR 30,000. This subsi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         dy however, is not available for farmers     A very interesting pattern, indeed.
             large scale irrigation systems. Yet anoth-                                                                                                                                                 The research is also to investigate the
             er 21 % depends on small scale irrigation
                                                               The famed Nilwala river, which me-
                                                           anders through the southern region of                                                                                                        innate properties of Ma Wee that ren-                                                                                                         paddy harvest                      who practise organic cultivation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            During the course of execution, the
             systems. The rest of the cultivation (22                                                                                                                                                   der it possible to survive under harsh                                                                                                                                                                                        The following charts illustrate these differences.
             %) is rain-fed.
                                                           the country originates in the Sinharaja
                                                           forest and falls to the sea at Matara. The                                                                                                   environmental conditions, yielding a                                                                                                          is consumed by                     project managed to draw an interest-
                Season wise, it is observable that the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ing inference. Small scale farmers,
             paddy production increases in the Maha
                                                           river is huge. It’s about 72 km in length
                                                           and crosses the entire Matara district.        ing the traditional Ma Wee, stayed back       the first harvest. The second quarter is
                                                                                                                                                                                                        comparatively high crop.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Comprehensive scientific research of                                                                                                        farmers and their                  particularly in the Galle district, get a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Percent distribution of paddy cultivation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         per acre yield of 50 – 60 bushels from
             season but decreases in the Yala season.
             This decrease is observable in both the
                                                           The river receives a profound supply of
                                                           water during the May – September mon-
                                                                                                          in the unprotected zone, to continue the
                                                                                                          cultivation with the genuine intention of
                                                                                                                                                        sold when the second crop starts matur-
                                                                                                                                                        ing. The third quarter is sold when the
                                                                                                                                                                                                        this nature, the project believes, is partic-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        ularly important to assess the feasibility
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      families. The rest is              their fields, irrespective of the type of           according to the nature of irrigation - Galle
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         fertiliser they use. In other words, the
             dry zone and the wet zone, but for differ-
             ent reasons. The drought seasons in the
                                                           soons. The heavy pours however, results        preserving the traditional Ma Wee vari-       second crop is harvested. The last quar-        and viability of the project concept.                                                                                                         marketed. But the                  yield increase is independent of the
             dry zone deprive paddy cultivations of
                                                           in routine and massive floods, inundating         .
                                                                                                          ety But they received no support for their
                                                                                                          endeavour from any government or non -
                                                                                                                                                        ter however, is never sold. It is usually set
                                                                                                                                                        aside for important social functions like
                                                                                                                                                                                                              The bigger picture                                                                                                                     major portion of the                type of fertiliser (organic or chemical)        99%
                                                           paddy land as well as settlement areas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       used in small scale farming. Therefore,
             sufficient water thereby decreasing pro-      This situation warranted serious social        government organisation, for the simple       weddings, funerals and other special oc-           The Ma Wee cultivation in the Nilwa-
             duction. But in the wet zone, the heavy
             pours inundate many paddy lands, ren-
                                                           and political concerns. Therefore, way         reason that they were cultivating in an       casions.                                        la zone of Matara is actually a smaller                                                                                                      marketed harvest                    it is evident that small scale farmers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         can successfully cultivate paddy land                                                 Large scale Irrigation
                                                           back in the 1980’s an initiative known         area designated ‘unprotected!’ They were        The intervention of this project war-         part of a bigger project named “Proac-
             dering them temporarily unsuited for          as the Nilwala Development Project was         categorised as ‘marginalised’ small scale     ranted several favourable transforma-           tive engagement of 10,000 marginalised                                                                                                       becomes available                   even under organic farming practices.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Centred upon this understanding, the                                                  Small scale irrigation
             cultivation.                                                                                 farmers, with no proper vocation.             tions in the marketing system. The              small scale farmers in high value crop
                Seasonal variations in national paddy
                                                           implemented to remedy this situation by
                                                           way of control flooding.                          These farmers faced extreme difficul-      project’s marketing component was               market of selected countries in South                                                                                                        to only a limited                   project at present is lobbying the gov-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ernment to allocate at least 1/3rd of the
             production therefore, are commonplace.                                                       ties due to untimely floods and malfunc-      executed in three phases. In the first          Asia through organic farming.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Rain-fed irrigation
             But still, these discrepancies can be over-
                                                               The project built a series of dams
                                                           on either side of the river, allowing the      tioning anicuts of the dams. The farmers      phase, the project was successful at se-           In Sri Lanka, the project is executed                                                                                                     crowd like the                      chemical fertiliser subsidy to either set
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         up an insurance/pension scheme for
             come by introducing different approach-                                                      in Aththudawa, Wallethota and Watage-         curing a price of LKR 20 for a kilo of          in areas predisposed to natural and
             es to utilise paddy land under different
                                                           overflow to flood designated zones in the
                                                           basin. The areas which were allocated
                                                                                                          dara of the Thihagoda divisional secre-       traditional paddy, whereas the market           manmade disasters. These include ar-                                                                                                        affluent societies,                  organic farmers, or to invest it in sub-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         sides for organic fertiliser. Such a mea-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      99 % of paddy land in Galle is rain-fed. No single
             climatic and environmental settings. For                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 cultivation serviced by large irrigation schemes.
             better results, such approaches should        for flooding were demarcated as the un-
                                                                                                          tariat and in Malimboda of the Malim-
                                                                                                          boda divisional secretariat were worst
                                                                                                                                                        price was only a mere LKR 8. Further,
                                                                                                                                                        by the third phase, the price rose dra-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        eas of the Nilwala unprotected zone,
                                                                                                                                                                                                        wherein floods are induced by improp-                                                                                                       supermarket chains                   sure will also enable the state to save a
                                                           protected zone. The remainder, i.e., the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      huge amount of money, which other-
             also incorporate paddy lands which are
             abandoned and marginalised due to sa-         areas that were spared of flooding were
                                                                                                          affected by this situation. Some, in the
                                                                                                          face of escalating threats, abandoned the
                                                                                                                                                        matically to LKR 43. On the other hand,
                                                                                                                                                        only 2 farmers participated in the proj-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        er development plans, areas in Ham-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        bantota, wherein saltwater intrusion
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    and tourist hotels,                  wise will be invested in subsidies.                 Percent distribution of paddy cultivation
                                                           demarcated as the protected zone. Unfor-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Nevertheless, the case is different in
             linity problems, harsh and unpredictable
             climatic conditions like untimely floods,     tunately though, the unprotected zone
                                                                                                          traditional Ma Wee grounds and went in
                                                                                                          search of greener pastures. The others
                                                                                                                                                        ect in the first phase. But having viewed
                                                                                                                                                        the palpable success of the project, yet
                                                                                                                                                                                                        is induced by post-tsunami conditions,
                                                                                                                                                                                                        areas in Bundala wherein prevailing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    due to their high                    large scale paddy farming. Herein, the              according to the nature of irrigation -
                                                           housed large extents of the productive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        use of chemical fertilisers renders a               Hambantota
             droughts, and strong winds. On the other
             hand, the approaches should be environ-       paddy lands, and even more unfortunate-
                                                                                                          remained, trusting providence to make a
                                                                                                          living out of each day .
                                                                                                                                                        another 33 farmers enrolled in the proj-
                                                                                                                                                        ect by the third phase.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        droughts are affecting paddy lands and
                                                                                                                                                                                                        areas in Panama and Thambattai in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    prices. The project                  significantly high yield as compared to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         the use of organic fertilisers. Therefore,
             mentally compatible, benefit stakehold-
             ers and sustainable. The quest for such
                                                           ly most of these lands were cultivated
                                                           with Ma Wee under traditional cultivat-          Adaptive management                           Restoring abandoned                           Eastern Province, wherein lagoon pol-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        lution and salinity was affecting paddy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    therefore envisages                  right now, organic fertiliser is not the

             holistic agricultural approaches is on the    ing systems.
                                                               Following the development project,
                                                                                                             Traditional paddy varieties, in most             paddy lands                               lands. The project is funded by the Big                                                                                                    remedying these                       best application to increase the yield of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         large scale farming or national produc-                                                Large scale Irrigation
             rise at present. Organic farming prac-                                                       cases are known to withstand a range                                                          Lottery Fund (BLF) and it aims to in-                                                                                                                                                                                                                         7%
             tices coupled with the popularisation of      farmers were compelled to abandon the          of extreme climatic conditions. That is,        Further, the project envisaged restor-
                                                                                                                                                        ing abandoned paddy land through pro-
                                                                                                                                                                                                        troduce organic farming of traditional                                                                                                     discrepancies                         tion. Yet, it should be borne in mind,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         that it is these farming operations that
             traditional paddy varieties among them,       unprotected zone. The area was supposed        they could successfully survive untimely                                                      paddy varieties to marginalised small                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Small scale irrigation
             is seemingly the most prominent ap-           to be completely evacuated. However,           floods and prevailing droughts. On the        moting the cultivation of Ma Wee under
                                                                                                                                                        organic practices.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        scale farmers in rural areas, in a bid to                                                                                                  by expanding                          often double up as severe environment
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         polluting agents. The systems therefore
             proach.                                       some of the farmers who were cultivat-         other hand, extreme climatic condi-                                                           improve access to appropriate technolo-
                                                                                                          tions – particularly floods and droughts        The first phase of the project is to be       gies, skills and knowledge and thereby                                                                                                     the market and                        need to be revitalised.                                        2%                      Rain-fed irrigation
                                                                                                                                                        implemented in Aththudawa West of the           prompt market transformation. The di-
                                                                                                          – most often take their toll on small scale
                                                                                                          farmlands, pushing them into extreme          Thihagoda divisional secretariat, with          rect beneficiaries are small scale farm-                                                                                                   providing access to a                                                              But in Hambantota, the majority of paddy lands are
                                                                                                                                                        the involvement of 9 farmers to cultivate
                                                                                                          vulnerability Therefore, restoring vul-
                                                                                                          nerable farmlands should essentially be       an extent of 12 acres in the Maha season
                                                                                                                                                                                                        ers, who have less than 2 acres of lands,
                                                                                                                                                                                                        (often without the ownership of the                                                                                                        larger crowd through                                                               serviced by large irrigation schemes. Only a 2 % is
                                                                                                                                                        of 2008/2009. The cultivation of Ma Wee                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       rain-fed.
                                                                                                          addressed through the popularisation of
                                                                                                          traditional paddies that are well suited to
                                                                                                                                                                                                        land) typically engaging in rain-fed or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   the introduction of
                                                                                                          withstand unpredictable climate change.
                                                                                                             Bearing this in mind, the Practical         Small scale farmers, particularly in the Galle district,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   fair prices                                                                               Percent distribution of paddy cultivation
                                                                                                          Action intervened in the Nilwala case
                                                                                                                                                         get a per acre yield of 50 – 60 bushels from their                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  according to the nature of irrigation - Matara
                                                                                                          to identify the potential implications of                                                                                                     minor irrigation paddy cultivation.        this project. Their support is crucial,        work (REN) was crucial in retail-
                                                                                                          popularising and conserving Ma Wee             fields, irrespective of the type of fertiliser they use.                                          The project has identified many key     particularly in policy intervention and                           .
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ing traditional paddy Their support
                                                                                                          and thereby providing means for income                                                                                                                                                                                             was important to bring about equitable
                                                                                                          generation to the marginalised small           Therefore, it is evident they can successfully cultivate                                       stakeholders in the course of imple-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        mentation. The national level farmer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   project replication related aspects.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Universities and government re-        sharing of benefits and profits, for both                                                 54%                           23%
                                                                                                          scale farmers. They designed a project
                                                                                                          aimed at improving access of the farm-
                                                                                                                                                         paddy land under organic farming practices. Centred                                            organisations are important to gain        search institutes extend their support    the consumer as well as the producer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The major portion of traditional pad-
                                                                                                          ers to appropriate technologies, skills        upon this understanding, the project at present is                                             access to the traditional paddy variet-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ies and traditional knowledge, which
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   by conducting research, particularly
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   to assess the feasibility and viability   dy harvest is consumed by farmers and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Large scale Irrigation
                                                                                                          and knowledge, thereby leading to mar-
                                                                                                          ket transformation.
                                                                                                                                                         lobbying the government to allocate at least 1/3rd                                             is in possession of farmers of this net-   of the project concept. The University    their families. The rest is marketed. But
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the major portion of the marketed har-                                                                                            Small scale irrigation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        work. Among these organisations, the       of Peradeniya, the Rice Research In-
                                                                                                               Marketing success                         of the chemical fertiliser subsidy to either set up an                                         National Federation for Conservation       stitutes are particularly supportive in   vest becomes available to only a limited
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Rain-fed irrigation
                                                                                                            The Ma Wee farmers possessed a very          insurance/pension scheme for organic farmers, or                                               of Traditional Seeds and Agricultural
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Resources (NFCTSAR) organisation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   this regard. The Southern Province
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Development Authority supported the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             crowd like the affluent societies, super-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             market chains and tourist hotels, due to
                                                                                                          interesting marketing system. It was           to invest it in subsides for organic fertiliser. Such a                                        was particularly important, for they       project after being convinced of the      their high prices. The project therefore
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Matara however, seems to occupy a moderate position.
                                                                                                          a traditional system. They sold their                                                                                                                                                                                              envisages remedying these discrepan-
                                                                                                          harvest in several stages. The number          measure will also enable the state to save a huge                                              possessed the largest base of tradi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        tional paddy varieties and traditional
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   project’s potential in marketing tradi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   tional paddy They further supported
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .                            cies by expanding the market and pro-                                                    Two equal proportions are serviced by large and small
                                                                                                          of stages usually is from around 3 to 4.
                                                                                                          Within this, they sell the first quarter of
                                                                                                                                                         amount of money, which otherwise will be invested                                              knowledge. The Dept of Agriculture         the establishment with a micro-credit     viding access to a larger crowd through
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the introduction of fair prices.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      irrigation schemes, while the majority (54 %) of land is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and Agrarian Services functions as the     financing systems for farmers. The                                                                                                 rain-fed.
                                                                                                          their crop immediately after gathering         in subsidies                                                                                   national and regional coordinators in      support of the Rural Enterprise Net-        At present, the government spends
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Nation Graphics

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