“Organic Food is Gold’’ | Sunday Observer

“Organic Food is Gold’’

10 May, 2021

The latest trend is to use organic compost fertiliser in agriculture which is not alien to us. Artificial fertiliser was introduced to us after the green revolution which appears to be unstoppable and irreversible yet it has come to a stage of sheer necessity to put an end to it due to very valid reasons.

Artificial manure is easily available and easily treated by just spreading or spraying. Compost is a long drawn process, heavy to transport, difficult to make, but soil friendly and healthy to the human being.

Making compost at home is easy and has been practised for generations.

Our life span over the centuries have been comfortable eating healthy, living natural, by growing our food in a natural way.

Life have been pleasant and happy in the traditional village with cattle and poultry to provide fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables from the garden and rice from the fields grown in a natural way with no addition of foreign fertilizer to the soil which is poisonous.

Cattle is a part and parcel of the household providing milk and fertiliser, to the family.

Paddy seed was found in the village and shared by the head of the village with others when and where necessary.

Livelihood and the food pattern was disturbed on the arrival of the Portuguese who introduced bread in place of rice (in 1505) exposing the community to various kinds of diseases in addition to malnutrition and various kinds of complications.

Rice is nourishing, healthy with no side effects and tested over thousands of years, yet the food pattern changed due to the forcible influence of the colonial powers.

Bread with wheat flour is unhealthy and mainly used to feed horses in the USA.

Initially, the USA and the west provided Sri Lanka wheat flour almost free to discourage the common man on paddy cultivation, a target which they successfully achieved.

Junk food and wheat flour based products and colas

Today the community is used to wheat flour based fast food and ‘Cola drinks’ loaded with sugar. The younger generation today prefers cola over the natural thambili and it is a curse to the nation caused by wrong food patterns introduced by foreign powers and companies.

Rice and rice based food items are forgotten or in the backyard in place of fast food not giving due place to health concerns unlike in other parts of the world where they are very particular on standards in food items.

The USA and the West is now paying the prize of junk food with an increase of obesity elated non communicable diseases even among the very young due to the addiction of junk food.

It is sad but true that the farmer small or large is depending on artificial fertiliser with minimum precautions and proper guidelines.

Fertiliser is used in paddy, tea, rubber, vegetables, fruits and many more crops openly and lavishly poisoning the soil, and water bodies and the entire environment with drastic effects both, short and long term. Artificial fertiliser that has been used for over five or more decades with no proper planning are concerns by some experts in the field.

As this is a detailed long drawn discussion we propose to discuss paddy alone this week since it is our stable diet and it has even previously caused the collapse of governments.

The way artificial synthetic fertilizer was introduced to Sri Lanka is interesting and important to note and a sad story of an unfortunate saga.

Farmers prefers it due to convenience, effectiveness, and immediate/quick results irrespective of the consequences which they are not concerned about.

It arrived to Sri Lanka as a wave from other rice growing nations in the region mostly from South East Asia.

It seems now artificial fertiliser has become a necessity for a good crop.

Mostly South East Asian countries were the victims of the menace who are unable to get away from the bad habits due to political, economic and commercial considerations.

It is known and proved that the artificial chemically produced fertiliser is unhealthy, harmful to the soil, human body and kills the eco-friendly pests.

Sri Lanka and many countries are trapped and finding it difficult to get out due to political, administrative and procedural issues.

Historically we had excellent paddy research centres in areas such as Batalagoda, Pollonnaruwa, and Anuradharapura’’ and elsewhere.

Hybrid varieties are many including the famous ‘’Keeri Samba’’.

Death toll in the farming areas were alarmingly high due to the presence of Cadmium and many other chemicals used in bulk with no proper advice but on the directions of uneducated mudalalis in villages who the farmers are dependent on.

The reality is the yield is high on application of fertiliser generally excessively used by the farmer with erroneous assumptions that applying layers of fertiliser may be beneficial to the paddy plant and the yield.

Artificial fertiliser is a multi-billion industry controlled by a rich and powerful mafia spread worldwide

While the production of artificial fertilizer is a simple scientific process with urea, phosphate, and such ingredients, freely available, producing proper compost is a cumbersome process with dangers of adding cadmium and similar garbage.

Therefore if we were to go organic, we must have a disciplined society such as in Bhutan and Netherlands.

The other main feature to be noted is the power of artificial fertiliser which is a multibillion business, as powerful or more than the illegal drug trade. The fertiliser mafia will make all efforts to promote carbonic with all their powers and resources worldwide.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resolved to do away with artificial chemically made fertiliser for very valid reasons and in the long term interest of the health and life of the citizens who already pressurised with adulterated, substandard food and consumer items freely in use with no laws or regulatory powers in force.

It is a timely and a wise decision, but whether proper planning and a strategy is on line with is the concerns of the experts in the field wooing the idea with a positive mind.

This is an excellent decision that should have been taken a long time ago and should have been implemented gradually without a burden to the economy and the farmer who is at the receiving end always.

The farmer was not used to artificial fertiliser a few decades ago and the little that was imported was of high quality unlike the current consignments of lowest standards by companies monopolising the market and who have close contacts with powerful circles.

In fact the distribution of free fertiliser to the farmers should have been stopped once the country was self-sufficient.

At one stage the country was self-sufficient in rice with many side effects of over and improper use of fertiliser which is still in practice.

During the Green Revolution fertiliser was given lavishly, and all facilities were provided to grow more and more food to the point when the famer used fertiliser with no proper guidance, on quantity, quality, and mode of application with no teaching or guidance from the agricultural field officers confined to their offices.

In Sri Lanka small land holders are more in agriculture, unlike in other major agriculture countries such as Australia, New Zealand and large countries with dairy farming. In other parts of the world farmers are the richest and Sri Lanka it is sadly the other way. In tea estates fertiliser is applied with thin density with the direct effect on soil is less harmful.

However the harmful fertiliser is washed away to streams during rain with serious environmental damages

In major agriculture countries the fertilizer is spread sparingly with less densities.

Farmers’ revolution

Sri Lanka is made, geared and planned to be a nation of agriculture with large number of rivers, springs and water falls.

Israel 73 years ago had no water and the land was unproductive and almost a desert. They desalinated sea water and today the country is a world nuclear and a major agriculture power using 95 percent agriculture technology and avoiding the use of toxic materials as fertiliser.

The UK has the Thames River when we have hundreds of rivers, tanks streams and water falls showing how fortunate we are.

Once the artificial fertiliser is completely banned, definitely the harvest yield will drop and there will be a need to import rice from Bangladesh, India or any other rice producing country.

Therefore, this proposition to ban artificial fertiliser is an excellent proposition akin to a double edged sword and must be carefully planned and monitored.

It is difficult to reverse the process in place over 70 years with no proper alternatives set up and other hurdles.

These concerns are to be sorted out with the proper and scientific machinery to go forward in the difficult but determined war for a considerably successful yield with the application of carbonic fertiliser, obviously less yield but forward plans for a better future.

How many carbonic fertiliser companies are available in Sri Lanka to cater to the paddy cultivation and other plantations such as tea, rubber, coconut and vegetables which are necessities for the fertiliser industry?

And availability of organic world over may have been well researched by the Ministry of Agriculture thoroughly now.

We are also informed that it is heavy to carry and time-consuming to make in addition to the difficulties on finding genuine raw materials. These are matters that have to be overcome and if there is a determination definitely there is a way sooner or later to achieve the need. Carbonic fertiliser is made from extracts from the earth or by way or a part of the recycling process of the purified Municipal waste preferably without the dangerous ingredients.

Carbonic expected to be soil friendly with no harmful and direct side effects such as petrochemicals which appear to be harmful.

There are few factors in Sri Lanka and it takes time to import organic in a hurry due to non-availability of genuine products.

There is bound to be practical difficulties on finding carbonic fertiliser which is not freely available today with long term processes on making new products. Ministry of Agriculture must be careful and mindful of these obstacles before launching into the difficult ventures.

Today we discuss the practical difficulties on the application and availability of carbonic fertiliser leaving rubber, tea, coconut vegetable and other crops to a later date.

The nation is awaiting on the expert knowledge dedication and research results of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Way forward and a solution for the implication of the process successfully.

Going fully organic in Sri Lanka is the best option that should have been adopted five decades ago, when we were leading towards self-sufficiency during the green revolution giving priority to local products.

All this completely changed due to the open economy is 1978.

With the possible drop of the yield we may have to import substandard rice from Bangladesh or India at the cost of foreign exchange again. It is a rest run and a gamble.

We have already over one million energetic three wheel drivers on the roads to earn a living at the expense of prime energy with no productive output to the nation on development, and the same fate should not be given to the farmer may be with a government subsidy which is a dangerous trend again.

Are we trained and disciplined to be proactive and innovative as the Israelis who are self-made innovative and independent who do not seek assistance form the government for their livelihood and they contribute to the national consumer simultaneously.

It is the duty of the Government whoever is in power in promoting and lifting the farmer high being the cradle of the nation by various ways and means.

Conversion to organic should be carefully done with the correct choice of fertiliser and production on most scientific conditions. It is a mistaken presumption that ‘’Meethotamulla’’ waste mountain could be converted to organic fertiliser by grinding and using scientific methods.

It has to be sorted out as the contents are said to be most toxic and dangerous. This applies to all other garbage storage dumps as well.

Please learn from the Netherlands to be environmental disciplined and go carbonic, it is not a comedown to learn from others!

Dual and multiple role

The best is to apply a dual role to go both organic and artificial subject to research and artificial fertiliser together with other options with proper research work, planning and ground work with the main player being the real farmer who is always neglected and not consulted when we find the one page document in ‘’English’’ on the agricultural policy for Sri Lanka, and planning for the future which is understood to not many.

It is useful and advisable to go back to the farmer to learn through his knowledge and experience with the agony they are going through. Communication with the farmer and the ordinary person on a language he/she understands is vital. Much is spent (remember to amount paid for ‘’Govijana’’ Madura belongs to the famous actress) on advertisements, rent, and other infrastructure, when the real cradle that is the farmer, and the fieldworkers are neglected leaving an open forum for the ‘’Mudalali’’ in the village who is the unofficial advisor to the farmer on pesticides and fertiliser.

Universities, and educational institutions must be brought into the forefront to obtain the services of the university and other learned in professional organisations such as the OPA and other bodies and associations in Sri Lanka and abroad.

The income and the standard of the farmer should be uplifted and more concern and emphasis to be given to them, The time the drafting and decisions taken from ivory towers should be over and it is necessary to come down to the ground level for us to succeed or perish.