Haritha TV inaugurated while the agricultural policy is declared | Sunday Observer

Haritha TV inaugurated while the agricultural policy is declared

25 April, 2021

“Not a drop of water goes unused to mankind’’ - Parakramabahu the Great

Haritha TV - as the name itself signifies, was inaugurated at the ‘Gangaramaya’ Temple as the official head office on March 31 by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and a large number of supporters of the temple from all walks of life, parties, leading business magnates and common men of the country with the theme development, prosperity with a disciplined and orderly society on agriculturally based economy with modern and developed models and developments worldwide.

Being the brainchild of Podihamoduruwo - the head of the cluster of temples, workshops and estates offered by the people for development goals whilst the scheme is based on a long-term concept harnessing the resources and the goodwill of the powerful network of supporters and devotees with aims of development goals on the basis of loving kindness to all races, religions as human beings. It is a multi-religious cluster with Archbishop Most Rev Malcom Cardinal Ranjith’ and all other religious groups led by all sects of the Buddhist sectors constituted. All signatories from all religions were present at the event. According to Rev Assagie, special emphasis will be given to the North East and Dry Zones in the South in need of advice and assistance on correct agricultural policies and expert advice.

Temple as the centre

The temple has proved itself a hub of technical education in Colombo and a large number of estates are managed as training centres and agricultural models, donated by the Dayakayas from time to time. Rev. Dr Kiranda Assaji is the current pioneer and the head of the organisation dedicated to environment protection and agriculture, based on concepts aiming at a friendly, educated, pro Sri- Lankan motto with direct participation of all religions, ethnicities and all Provinces including North and East.

The project is aimed at interactions of past, present and future based on agriculture and irrigation on par with modern technology. This shows the trust endowed on the temple by the devotees and supporters to be an active hub of professional social activism. Going back to the past glory, the historians agree that Sri Lanka has been a most successful agricultural nation based on ‘agriculture-based culture’ with the most developed water networks connecting to small and large man-made tanks with direct links with catchment areas and the water resources with 103 long rivers, 26 small rivers and waterfalls starting from all over country on hills and forests.

Our water resources

Water reservoirs countrywide were used for agriculture with the smooth water flow throughout the network with the classical saying of King ‘’Parakramabahu’’ the Great in 1153-1186 CE that “let not even a drop of rain water hereafter let not go to the sea without benefiting the mankind’’ which was a golden era of our history with diplomatic and trade links with Middle East, Burma and many other countries on trade and religious sectors. Agriculture was given priority and the irrigation systems were scientific amusing engineers worldwide even today on distributing of water to long miles on higher slopes.

We are fortunate to have plenty of water unlike other nations with less water resources. Namely some of our most famous rivers and tanks are; Daduru Oya, Gal Oya, Gin Ganga, Kalu Ganga, Kelani river, Kumbukan Oya, Maskeliya Oya, Puswali Oya, Kirindi Oya, Maduru Oya, Maha Oya, Mahadu river, Malwatta river, Manik Ganga, Walawa river, Yan Oya, Akarayam Oya, Kankariam Oya, Kudupppan Aru, Mavil Aru, Nau Aru, Nilwala river, Parakrama Samudra, in addition to 202 major rivers, small rivers and waterfalls, when in the UK, being such a huge country has the most polluted Thames River running across London with only a few more rivers in the country when they had to turn to other alternatives are such as power generated water resources.

True to the word and adage water was collected, preserved and used with utmost protective measures. Sri Lanka has been an agricultural nation reached peak on agriculture on technological advances that surprise even the modern scientists, yet neglected it and depended on the culture of import of commodities depending on other sources of income which are not static and alien to us neglecting our agriculture, especially paddy cultivation encouraging cheap imports with drastic health effects.

UK is also an agricultural nation mixed with technology like New Zealand, Australia, even India and China - large countries with industries exporting us many products and machinery when our agriculture based economy was destroyed by British Colonial masters by destroying our forest cover and agriculture-based economy forcibly, buying land in 1800, that belonged to peasants for few shillings per acre under the Crown Land Act to grow tea as a commercial crop for the Colonial masters in their estates, now a liability to us. Clearance of land, our jungle for tea, cocoa and rubber changed the entire agriculture and climatic pattern in the nation with reduced forest cover infested with pesticide polluted water in large scale which spread to the entire country disturbing the catchment areas of rivers and water falls.

Going back to our past

It is now time for us to revert back to our traditional agriculture again and it is timely that ‘Gangaramaya’ has given the leadership to the nation for the revolutionary transformation of the new agriculture based economic model that is different to the government model which is very technical and academic, prepared on ivory towers. We may not achieve the same glory of the past but we can have the glory in the modern way with digitalised era when we are at the door steps of digitalisation.

The awakening at the Gangarama is a need of the day to regain our lost glory in the modern way indeed. Regaining of the past glory has become an arduous task due to destruction of environment, including ‘raping’ of our forest cover which is fast running below 18% from 70% we had during the colonial regime when forest was converted to tea estates and were even about to make ’Sinharaja’ also a tea estate prevented due to the intervention of a gentleman colonial ruler then to our fortune.

When tiny Israel a world power today has reached top on agriculture with 95% agriculture on technology, also advising big powers such as India and China why not we tie ourselves with them on agriculture and technology? Finland has the forest cover of 73% being the happiest nation and we in 173rd position dwindling the forest cover fast due to idiotic destruction of environment by ourselves. It is timely that the governance is little bit concerned on agriculture, environmental protection and to be strict on those engaged in major scale of sand mining, and deforestation.

Israel as an example

Israel is the size of one-third of Sri Lanka and initiated their nation in a barren land with lot of deserts with no water and no resources except for human resources, which they made the maxim use of. They had only one ‘Galali River’ to be shared with the neighbour so they tactfully agreed into an agreement to share giving away a part of land. Then they started pumping water using modern techniques to save and invested on desalination of sea water which is an expensive process with the co-operation with Jews worldwide (who are united worldwide) to elevate the nation to a world power and to become one of the best countries on agriculture advising world powers on agriculture and technology.

It is noteworthy to mention that in Israel’s 95% of agriculture is technology and following our ‘King Parakramabahu’ saying they too save every drop of water including rain water and sewage in underground reservoirs. They are amazing, hardworking and intelligent people who are very friendly with Sri Lankans? They do not water the soil in agriculture like we do instead they water the root with treated fertiliser. We use excessive amounts of fertiliser but they do not.

They are true to nature and always use natural ingredients with scientific knowledge. Should we not learn from us when India and China are learning from them? India is seeking advice and Israel is using India as a centre for Israel technology to spread worldwide. Israel is a world nuclear power and a leader on agriculture and connected fields yielding the highest milk portion form a cow superseding Australian and New Zealand technology at times. Israel’s cattle is more compatible with Sri Lankan conditions unlike the cattle imported from the cold countries which mostly do not survive the difficult weather conditions in hot countries. Israel exports flowers, vegetables, fruits, and many consumer items in addition to innovative complicated computer accessories and war accessories for which they have become experts living in the midst of enemies.Today they export water to her neighbours as a leader in water technology and many other innovations including modern methods of agriculture such as drip irrigation.

President Rajapaksa visited Israel to have a close dialogue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and there were a number of Trade Missions from and to Israel. While learning from our past glory we must learn from the strong and amazing Israelis who are ever willing to work with us. They had to go through eternal battles with all the neighbours and had to face 178 UN resolutions against Israel which they successfully resisted. We are grateful to them for having helped us to end the bitter war with their technology and ammunitions. Agriculture policy research and technology plays a pivotal role in agriculture which is based on technology.

The Universities are geared to the development of agriculture and the advancement of technology giving top priority to innovations and innovators where in Israel almost everybody is an innovator. It is timely to consider how a leader like Israel is reacting on agricultural policy and adaptation on the developments in national policy, which are as follows (1) increased environmental awareness (2) fresh water supply (3) waste water (4) pesticide applications (5) land area (6) fertiliser (7) and plant protection as priorities whereas we have not considered these areas as priority areas.

Agriculture is not only the growth of paddy, vegetables and fruit. It goes far beyond on dairy farming, fisheries and many other areas other agriculture nations are experts on. Many South Asian countries have gone beyond us on modern agriculture developments. Vietnam battered by USA in the war has emerged victorious as a leading agriculture and industrial country based on advanced technology and modern methods. Why are we still lagging behind is a sorry state when we have University faculties and Institutions on agriculture teaching academic excellence inside class rooms when Israel agriculture is taught in open, mainly based on technology and practical experience true to the word that 95% Israel agriculture is technology.

National agricultural policy and Haritha TV

Haratha TV was set up with the experience and background of social services by the existing set up of 900-acre land converted to an agro training centre with plantations, dairy and training of small-time agriculturalists to be converted to environmentalists who will be in the team of farmers converted to small time entrepreneurs as in Israel and technicians through the training centres conducted for a long time with the assistance of the State training centres. Six lacks of plants are scheduled to be planted and 12 milk centres with dairy milk is to be supplied to the Government collection centres which is a very ambitious program.

Training centres and schools provide training to individual entrepreneurs and jobs are provided direct and via State institutions. ‘Haritha TV’ is the most modern venture with plans to diversify the agriculture schemes in compatible with the National Agricultural Policy which is submitted for observations and comments of the public which is the guiding force and guidance of Haritha TV launched with the auspicious of the President, and the channel with supplement the programs launched by the State on agriculture.

There were many agriculture models prepared previously which have been utter failures and we hope same fate will not fall to the set of proposals on the table fortunately with some vestiges of Israel model described above.

According to the policy statement, the topics are categorised on implementation as follows which deals with somewhat progressive and proactive topics, (a) Promotion of agriculture products deals with promotion of new products to the market which is an important factor, (b) Seeds Plants and marketing with new seeds introduced and experiments (c) Fertiliser which is an important component for which priority is given, (d) Pesticides to be taken careful consideration in terms of soil preservation, (d) Agricultural machinery which is an important segment of the agricultural system, (e) Irrigation and water management a main ingredient on agriculture (f) land use is the most important component in agriculture on land management and connected affairs, (g) Soil conservation includes soil management and management,(h) Agri erosion is to be considered important, (i) Agro Insurance is an important need for the, (j) youth involvement and (k) Export are an integral part of the process and these are observations and comments on the National Agricultural Policy which is being considered by the State.

This is the modern agricultural policy for the present generation in the modern way. To what extent we have achieved the targets are yet to be known when considering that the Israel giving a large portion of research and the portion of research as for Sri Lanka’s apportioned is hardly sufficient is hardly surfeiting for the needs of the nation.

The current policy statement was published on one full page in an English paper for English readers who are the expert agriculturists. There appear to be no attempts of seeking views from those who are dealing in agriculture and the dedicated agriculturists. Submitting a proper agriculture policy and a program is the need of the day which should be a research-based program for a research-based agriculture policy as in Israel policy where a major portion is given to research. Agriculture cannot and will not succeed in isolation.

A joint effort of many groups and organisations need to work together starting from schools and students onwards who are today very enthusiastic on agriculture. The initiative and involvement of Haritha TV is timely and appropriate and of course on the correct note, with the blessings of the State, opposition, religions and media of all groups with one voice, with the main aim of the promoting of agriculture using Haritha TV as a vehicle.

Sarath Wijesinghe President’s Counsel former Ambassador to UAE and Israel, President -Ambassadors Forum sarath [email protected]