Sri Lankan strategy to counter food crisis:
Increasing traditional food production
Minister of Environment and Natural Resources at the
Not all our green has yet been overtaken by concrete yet. Sri Lanka
still has hope. And the Sri Lankan strategy to counter a potential food
shortage is to encourage and strengthen local food production. What is
required to achieve this objective is a precisely directed vision.
With these objectives on mind the Ministry of Environment with the
collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture had organized many events
for the Food Week from June 22 to 28. The main purpose of these programs
was to develop and popularize local food production.
Various lectures on popularization of traditional roots and tubers,
biodiversity of local fruits were conducted over this week, of which the
objective was the improvement of food habits. Patali Champika Ranawaka,
Minister of Environment and Natural Resources attending an exhibition of
traditional food last week said: "We are lucky as a nation. We have an
impressive and extensive history of food culture."
Mahatha Angili Ala
He further explained that we possess 562 types of rice. "We used to
have six to seven feet tall paddy" explained the minister. These were
wild types that were resistant to drought. But this genetic diversity
was lost due to the green revolution.
Sri Lanka is home to more than
20,000 plants of which more than 2600 are edible and 4000 have medicinal
values. "This is unprecedented" said the minister. However the current
forms of agriculture is now under threat.
As oil become more and more
scarce and costly, agricultural chemicals, of which the major raw
material is oil, are also under threat of elimination. Moreover the
heavy metals in these chemicals lead to kidney diseases. The minister
said that these sorts of problems did not occur during earlier methods
of farming because of the existence of smaller scale irrigation systems
that were home to plants such as lotus that extracts heavy metals.
The minister reiterated the importance of being self sufficient,
since any global food crisis has an affect on local prices of imported
goods. The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the
As the minister explained, according to the
ecological foot print, an American can utilize 10 hectares. "We can use
one each. But we can utilize only 0.4 hectares" said the minister.
explained that this can be overcome if Sri Lanka increases its food
resources. For this engaging in studies of food science is of utmost
importance. Sri Lanka is an island ideal for farming. The minister
warned that it will not be long before Sri Lanka is forced to grow its
Roots and tubers replaced by imported food and GMOs
Local roots and tubers have been an important staple in the Sri
Lankan diet. But as of late these invaluable varieties like Manyok, Raja
Ala, Kiri Ala, Sweet Potato, Hingurala, Hulang Keeriya and Kahata Ala
have been replaced by imported and genetically modified goods. Moreover
their mere existence is threatened by fragmentation of land; lack of
access to markets coupled the lack of motivation in the farmers to
promote their produce.
Damayanthi Godamulla of the Community Development Centre of Aranayake
said that their objective is to reintroduce 61 of the rarest of species
to farmers, in order to improve the local food culture. The Aranayake
Community Development Centre has started a farm in Kalwana, where anyone
interested can observe and learn from. Community Development Centre of
Aranayake has won the second place in the Equator prize, representing
Herbs lost due to lack of knowledge
Sri Lankans have grown wild plants for medicines for centuries. But
with time knowledge of such vital traditional medicines have also
diminished explained Dr. Mala Perera. "Plants like Embul Embiliya has
been used as an herb that improves appetite, for many years. But this is
often mistaken for grass. Batakirilla is used for worm problems", says
Dr. Perera. Likewise many plants with medicinal values have been
neglected out of mere negligence. Hathawariya, Katuwelbatu, Kiri Aguna,
Iramusu, Thebu and Girapala are only few of the medicinal plants that
Sri Lanka is blessed with.