Paddy is one of the sectors that were seriously affected by the Tsunami. Practical Action under its Rebuilding livelihoods affected by Tsunami programme plans to help farmers to restore their livelihoods and provide diverse production and marketing options through the introduction of paddy varieties and provide improved marketing options.
A few years ago, Practical Action embarked on a study to capture the knowledge and traditional practices on seed and plant material use and water management in communities in 3 districts in Sri Lanka. The findings were applied to a pilot project which was initiated with a farmer community in the Wellawaya Divisional Secretariat Division of the Moneragala district. The aim of the project was to demonstrate the possibility of maximising benefits while preserving the environment by combining traditional and modern farming practices.
Prior to the project this particular farming community was also engaged in high chemical-input paddy cultivation. Through this project, the farmers benefited from training and capacity building on farming, integrated pest management, and marketing using traditional rice varieties. They were also able to access appropriate technology options on rain water harvesting and micro irrigation techniques to enhance their cultivation practices. This farming community is now more confident in enhancing traditional methods with new technologies than in merely adopting new methods.
- The programme was able to Influence the Southern Province Development Authority (government body) to bring abandoned low yield paddy lands in Galle, Matara and Hambanthota district under traditional organic paddy cultivation. Plans are now in place for the upcoming cultivation season. There are about 187 acres of low yield abandoned paddy land which would be brought under this programme and can potentially benefit 513 small scale farmers.†
- Agriculture Department (Key government body providing agriculture related services) agreed to extend the services of its agriculture inspectors to provide advice and consultation services to traditional organic paddy farmers. Practical Action provided training on indigenous paddy cultivation methods†to 30 agriculture inspectors and 41 field officers in the Galle, Matara and Hambanthota districts.
- 47 paddy farmers affected by Tsunami (24 farmers in Galle, 23 farmers in the Matara district) now cultivating indigenous rice, were registered with the NFCTSAR (National Federation for the Conservation of Indigenous Seeds and Agricultural Resources) with a view to obtaining long term support services. This is a farmer network, which in addition to conserving seed paddy, provides assistance in marketing of traditional varieties and facilitates the sharing of best practices.
The current areas of the project work include piloting appropriate approaches for the post disaster revival on appropriate technology to promote high value crops (e.g. indigenous organic rice varieties), and testing and promoting technology based approaches for reclaiming saline paddy land.
Case study: Do new technologies often help?
Farmers who cultivated improved hybrid rice varieties in Ooraniyayaya in Hambanthota district had to abandon their paddy land due to saline soil conditions 20 years ago. The once proud farmers had to make a living by becoming mere wage labourers. Twenty years later the experiences and knowledge of Practical Actions project on organic farming helped to bring about change into the lives of these farmers from Ooraniayayaya. More »