Ahead of World Water Day, Mohamed Aheeyar, a researcher with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), reports on a new case study documenting a remarkable agricultural transformation made possible in Sri Lanka by the rapid spread of motor pumps for irrigation.
Millions of farmers in Sri Lanka struggle to deal with pest infestations, leading to low crop yields. In addition, a study in 2007 by the University of Peradeniya on the use of pesticides in southern Mahaweli found that about 35 percent of the 250 farmers surveyed have experienced adverse reactions to pesticides while spraying their crops. This is due to improper product use and application methods, as well as the lack of personal protection.
CropLife Sri Lanka has partnered with the Department of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and various local universities in promoting the judicious use of crop protection products to help farmers improve yields. The programs include training on Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an environmentally friendly strategy to combat insect attacks.
Farmers learn about the secure storage of crop protection products in order to prevent accidental poisoning among humans and animals. Growers also learn about the importance of wearing protective clothing and equipment during handling and application to minimize exposure to the products.
In addition, trainers show farmers the gains to be made from choosing appropriate products to target specific pests and using the right dosage – eliminating waste and minimizing pesticide residue on their crops.
By tapping into training opportunities offered by CropLife Sri Lanka, farmer Piyasena Dayananda, 68, has learnt how to deal with disease and pest attacks on his rambutan and tomato crops through the judicious use of crop protection products. The result: healthier fruit, a rise in output and a higher income.
Dayananda, who owns a 10-hectare farm in Badulla, 120 km south of Colombo, used to grapple with mildew attacks on his rambutan crops, which reduced his harvest by half. In addition, blight attacks on his tomato crops also sparked losses of about 50 percent. The attacks caused stem lesions on his tomatoes and fruit rot.
It was a big problem for me. After I learnt how to use crop protection products properly, my annual income has averaged 3 million rupees ($26,116), up from 2 million rupees prior to training. Not only has production improved, my crops are bigger and fetch higher prices in the market.
Visit www.croplifeasia.org to learn more about work towards sustainable agriculture across the Asia Pacific region.
Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3), an initiative by the Commonwealth of Learning, an NGO, operates in South India and Sri Lanka in partnership with local banks, ICT providers and farmers groups.
It aims to improve the flow of information from researchers to farmers by offering tips, advice and information on best practices to local farmers through internet based kiosks.
Farmers form a local association and identify their needs and objectives and L3 helps bring them the relevant information to help them achieve these objectives. Information is provided by national or regional institutions such as universities.