Showcasing green technologies in Sri Lanka

All around Colombo are the signs of a city preparing for special guests.  But with just a few weeks until the eagerly awaited Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, another very special event took place last week in the grounds of the same venue.Staff from Practical Action, Janathakshan, and partner organisations and networks, were working tirelessly to build a magnificent outdoor exhibition under the banner ‘Green Technology Village’ a celebration of 25 years of Practical Action’s work in Sri Lanka.

As a relative newcomer to Practical Action (very new compared to the many Sri Lanka staff who have decades under their belts!) this was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from the successes, challenges and collective experience of the exhibitors.  And I wasn’t the only one. At least 3000 people – professionals, academics, government officials, members of the public and school children – also came to learn about and discuss green technologies and explore the opportunities they present both for their own lives and those of poor communities in Sri Lanka.

We learned about traditional rice varieties – long out of fashion – revived and now marketed to Europe.  These earn a price premium (they are both organic and wholegrain after all) and improve nutrition in farmers households, as well as protecting indigenous biodiversity.

We were shown biogas and fertiliser being generated from food waste using affordable technology that is increasingly attractive to city dwellers and businesses looking to reduce energy bills, as well as rural communities without access to electricity.  Rising energy prices are just one of the problems shared by people in both the UK and Sri Lanka.

copyright/Friendship 2013

Schoolboys try their hand generating electricity from a bicycle at the Green Technology Village.

One problem not shared is the challenge of living alongside one of nature’s giants: the elephant. Sri Lanka is smaller than Ireland, but with 3 times the people and 7,000 wild elephants to boot.  Drawing on the knowledge of local communities, a low-cost bio-fencing technology is being promoted by Practical Action.  Planting huge, long-life, spiky Palmyra trees, in a 5-deep, zig-zag fashion, creates a natural barrier that can replace costly and difficult to maintain electric fences.  Not only will this better protect villages and villagers from roaming elephants, but they produce fruit in the dry season too, just when the elephants are searching for scarce food.

All of these examples (and the many more at the Green Technology Village) demonstrate that with the right technologies poor people can transform their lives.  And it reminded me that those of us who already enjoy access to transport, energy and other technologies of our choosing, have a duty to be mindful of the impacts of how we use them.

So, my first step to being a greener technology user?  Well, now I that have the know-how, perhaps I can cut my food miles and build myself a hydroponic veggie patch in my spare room…

copyright/Friendship 2013

A staff member demonstrates how to grow lettuce without soil.

One response to “Showcasing green technologies in Sri Lanka”

  1. Ashley Mendis Says:

    I own a block of land iat Hedigalla, in Kaluthara District. I am interested in starting an hydrophonic farming project. I have the capacity to organize a group of young people from low income families. I would like to know what kind of help I can obtain from you for same.

    Ashley Mendis

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