Heralding a new dawn in the entire Mahaweli system : Mahaweli Week For Food self-sufficiency | Sunday Observer

Heralding a new dawn in the entire Mahaweli system : Mahaweli Week For Food self-sufficiency

On a directive of President Maithripala Sirisena, the Government will launch Mahaweli Week- October 5 to 12 to coincide with the National Food Production Drive. It is expected to give a boost to food production and offset the setbacks in the country’s food production due to adverse climatic conditions, experienced in the last few seasons. The program, represented by all Mahaweli zones will primarily involve the agriculture sector, relevant government and non-governmental organizations, farmer communities and the participation of the corporate sector. The objectives are, non-contaminated food production in Mahaweli zones, upgrading irrigation water management systems, alleviation of poverty and increased employment opportunities in Mahaweli zones through investments. Through these initiatives, the Government hopes to herald a new awakening in the entire Mahaweli Project.

Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority Director General, Gotabaya Jayaratne says, Mahaweli Week will be conducted from October 5 to 12 in connection with the National Food Production Drive. President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed all Cabinet Ministers, Ministry Secretaries, institutional heads and the Mahaweli Authority to launch this National Food Production Drive Week and implement identified specific programs targeting the 2017/2018 Maha season. The program would be carried out by the Agriculture Ministry in collaboration with all other institutions directly involved in food production. The activities will be continued within the next three to four months to accelerate the country’s food production. It aims at improving the income level of each farmer family.

The Director General said, Mahaweli Week will be launched with the joint participation of 240,000 families in 10 Mahaweli zones, 44 Mahaweli divisions and 223 Mahaweli villages. The total land area of the project includes 105,000 hectares of irrigated, and 20,000 non-irrigated lands. The main theme of the National Food Production Drive is “ Let us improve our food production”. The key objectives are to raise awareness on food production in the 2017/2018 Maha season, ensure the production of non- contaminated food in Mahaweli zones, increase the efficiency of irrigation management, alleviate poverty in Mahaweli areas, develop socio, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of the Mahaweli community, create new employment opportunities in Mahaweli zones through new investment projects, develop livestock, freshwater fishing and ornamental fish production, 100,000 title deeds to Mahaweli residents, improve knowledge of schoolchildren on sustainable farming culture and enhance efficiency of the Mahaweli office network.

Jayaratne said, each day of the Mahaweli Week has been given a specific theme, such as, religious day, farmers’ day, education and environment day, livestock day, entrepreneur’s day, fisheries day, public servant’s day and water day, respectively. The Week will commence on October 5 with religious observances at all Mahaweli zones to invoke blessing for the 2017/18 Maha season. October 6 has been declared Farmers’ Day where the main event-Wap magul festival will be held at Thibbatuwewa in the Huruluwewa Mahaweli zone under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena. Parallel to this event, arrangements have been made to hand over 1,000 title deeds to Mahaweli farmers in the Huruluwewa zone. On a directive of the President, the Mahaweli Authority intends to provide 100,000 title deeds to Mahaweli farmers by the end of this year. During the national ceremony on October 6, a special home garden development program will be launched for the next three years while drinking water units will also be distributed among the low income families who are victims of the chronic kidney disease.

Education and Environment day on October 7 has been earmarked to educate schoolchildren on sustainable agriculture, home garden, culture and the Mahaweli Development Project; while Entrepreneur’s Day will include a series of workshops to further encourage Mahaweli entrepreneurs and provide goods and equipment to small scale entrepreneurs on a concessionary rate. Nearly 223 Shramadana campaigns will be conducted on Water Day on October 12 to renovate irrigation channels while programs will also be launched to renovate tanks in Mahaweli B, L, Walawa and Huruluwewa zones. Through these initiatives, we hope to herald a new dawn in the entire Mahaweli system. We have also decided to formulate a data base and cultivation plan for each farmer family, which will be implemented for a period of three years. The ultimate goal of the program is to uplift the socio-economic conditions of farmer families.

Due to the prevailing drought in the last three years, the full harvest of the seasons could not be realized. However, amid various challenges faced during the Yala season due to the drought, we were able to obtain a harvest from 66,000 hectares of lands cultivated by Mahaweli farmers. The efficiency of Mahaweli farmers has been increased, and paved the way to enhance the country’s overall food production. We hope to seek the contribution of each Mahaweli farmer family towards this national endeavour. Nearly 5,000 Mahaweli Authority officials and 1,000 farmer organizations will contribute to the program. Our main task, the cultivation plan for the 2017/2018 Maha season will be announced targeting 105,000 hectares.

Mahaweli Centre Director Aruna Prasad Lekamge, speaking to the Sunday Observer, said, on a directive of the President, Mahaweli Week has been announced by the Ministries of Agriculture and Mahaweli to give a boost to the national farming sector. The main stakeholders are the Government and the farmers. The people are the ultimate beneficiaries of production. If we consider international statues, we have to talk about the environment, agriculture, global warming, non-toxin fertilizer and even chronic kidney diseases. We should also discuss water pollution. So, it’s a vast area to be discussed, but we want to concentrate more on Mahaweli Week.

Lekamge said, the Mahaweli Authority owns one third of the lands in the country. The main focus of the Mahaweli farmer is to supply our food, such as fruits, vegetables and paddy. There are many key components, the first is to manage the lands, and second, manage water. These are important aspects for agriculture. If we properly manage these two aspects, we can get a good crop. Mahaweli Week would be an eye opener for the staff, farmers and the public to boost the agriculture sector.

He noted that the Mahaweli Project is almost 35 to 40 years old now, and a visionary of those who created its history.

We have produced agriculture as well as hydro power, and managed the water, lands and farming. Now it is time to review our vision. During the past 3 to 4 decades, agriculture and people’s needs have changed. So our main focus is the Mahaweli youth, who are the third generation of the Mahaweli Project. We propose to customize them with future global food and water requirement, global warming, energy, solar, etc.

Hence, this event is not confined to just one week. Mahaweli Week would be an eye opener for the third generation of the Mahaweli Project. We would study current as well as future aspects. The President is the most experienced Minister of Mahaweli. With his visionary thinking, we can easily achieve the set targets. This is an ideal opportunity for Sri Lanka to develop her agriculture because the subject of agriculture comes under the purview of the President.

Lekamge said, this program will be launched in collaboration with all stakeholders, such as, the Mahaweli, Agriculture and Land Ministries. We have focused on the Mahaweli youth, to conduct livelihood and cultural programs as well as sports and create a proper position for them in society. A few months ago we organized the “Mahaweli Prathibha” program at Nelum Pokuna. It was an ideal opportunity to identify the talents of the youth.

Lekamge said, they are talking about a hydraulic civilization, along with farming and agriculture. We have a standard irrigation history, more than 2000 years old. Therefore, this event is to disseminate the hydraulic civilization in the country. Essay, singing and short story competitions will be conducted at school level for this purpose.

Another program ‘Mahaweli Hydraulic Civilization Problems’ and awareness campaigns will be conducted along with university students. It would disseminate the hydraulic civilization up to the Moragahakanda project. We have also established South Asia’s first Irrigation Museum at the Mahaweli Centre premises, funded by the World Bank. We would work closely with schoolchildren and organize competitions to create awareness among the youth. The strategic focus is the future of our farmers.

He said the program will not be confined to Mahaweli Week, but will be a continual process. The program intends to protect the environment and optimize the production of crops through agriculture and farming. Mahaweli Week will be an eye-opener to protect the environment along with farming and create awareness among youth to manage water, land and agriculture.