The Myth of Promoting Home Gardening In Sri Lanka
Our political environment seems to be proliferating with empty rhetoric rather than practical measures to alleviate the problems of the general public. One such instance is the home garden promotion concept initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture during the tenure of Maithripala Sirisena. All electronic and print media went to town about the so-called ambitious project and I confess that it stimulated considerable awareness among people.
As a person who was involved in home gardening as a hobby, wherever I reside, I could encounter a larger number of people at outlets dealing in seeds, agrochemicals and plants etc. during that time. As home-gardeners we encountered many problems such as reliable seeds, unknown pests and diseases destroying the plants and produce. All these outlets were commercial based and the dealers know little or nothing about such issues other than selling them. When advice is sought for, often they sell some pesticide or other chemicals available at a premium price and that did not produce the desired result.
My initial attempt was to seek advice from a qualified and competent person in the field, preferably from the Department of Agriculture, such as Agriculture Instructor or any other field officer in the Wattala area. I came across none. I searched the Ministry website for a clue and I could find none. After extensive enquiries I phoned the head office in Peradeniya, I finally learnt that there was an Agriculture Extension Office in Kelaniya approximately 8km. away from where I lived. I went to this office on two occasions to find a person who could help me in this aspect. I was directed to contact an Agriculture Instructor (name withheld) of the area whose office is located in Uswetakeiyawa which is about 7km away. They were also kind enough to give me his mobile number and also called him over the phone and explained my predicament and directed him to visit my place during his field visits about four months ago. After waiting for his arrival I phoned him and his phone was switched off. I visited his office and I was told that he is out on his field visits. So, here I am where I started. This seems to be reality of promotion and service.
When I began my home gardening hobby, way back in 1963, there was no need to go looking for advice. It was readily available from not only trained personnel, but also in the form of leaflets containing all the valuable information. For example, If one needs to plant brinjal one only had to pick up the relevant leaflet that explains all aspects the particular cultivation including, soil selection, soil preparation, nurseries for plants, time of planting, watering, common pests and diseases and their treatment, method of harvest etc. What in God’s name has happened to that type of thinking on the part of the authorities today, we do not know. In this era of developed IT communication, the Ministry website containing none of this type of information beats me. I understand that most of the Field Officers have been promoted as Grama Seva Niladharis as political favours that has left a vacuum in the field.
Apart from this, certain multinational companies are now running the show of big time gardening, sale of seeds and plants and agrochemicals etc. They are presumably the front organisations of the infamous Monsanto that manipulates our native flora and fauna genetically in a subtle manner. Seeds purchased from these organisations at exorbitant price germinate only within a specific period of time. One cannot save seeds for replanting from the produce – meaning terminator technology is involved. This is legally prohibited in this country. Nevertheless, they have found a way to do it anyway. Our authorities are sleeping in air conditioned rooms after the routine press conferences and rhetoric.
A Disappointed Home Gardener