Monday, May 28, 2007

Oxfam Organic Agriculture Workshop

Humanitarian organisation Oxfam GB recently held a two-day Workshop on Sustainable and Diversified Alternative Agricultural Technology in Ampara District. Attendees included government officers from the Department of Agriculture & Agrarian Services, NGO personnel, and local farmers.

The workshop was opened at the Kachcheri by the District Secretariat - Ampara Planning Director, A.A. Bawa. Mr. Bawa emphasised the importance of organic farming if farmers were to survive and stressed the need to minimise the costs to produce high agricultural yields not only in Ampara District but in Sri Lanka as a whole.Oxfam GB Programme Manager, Krishnaswamy Gopalan, explained that farmers have been looking for other jobs as agriculture is not viable given the high cost of production here and that correcting this situation was of paramount importance to the country.

The first day of the workshop focused on theory and was organised by Erangi Ruchini Fernando, Programme Coordinator of Oxfam GB. The Executive Director of the Tamilnadu Organic Farmers' Movement, Ms. M. Revathi, instructed participants on organic farming, soil nutrient management, seed selection, sowing and storage, treatment, and integrated farming. Her colleague, Ms. K. Rajalakshmi, then spoke to the audience about food security, economic matters, environmental preservation, organic awareness, the global scenario, the Asian context, challenges with organic farming, and opportunities for Asian agriculture.

The participants were taken on a field visit to Vangamam on the second day of the workshop where local farmers were involved in organic farming with the assistance of the Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers' Movement. These farmers demonstrated their manner of selecting seeds and how to prepare organic manure, organic insect repellent, and boosters to make plants grow well and produce high yields using only cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd, ghee, rotten fruits, and wild plants found in abundance.Oxfam GB personnel explained that the cost of paddy production could be reduced three- to four-fold and that the yield could be increased to 150-200 bushels per acre with only two kilograms of seed paddy. Presently, around 100 kilograms of seed paddy would be sown using fertiliser and chemical insecticides that applied to the crops.

Participants told the Daily Mirror that “if this organic farming is proven a success here, with reduced production costs and high yields, then there won’t be any need for farmers to look for other jobs or leave the country for greener pastures elsewhere”.

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