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Sri Lanka Army To Promote Traditional Rice Varieties

A traditional ritual before cultivation

By Camelia Nathaniel

Having ended a 30-year long war in the country, the Sri Lanka Army has today laid down its weapons and instead taken up agricultural equipment to assist the country’s development in the agricultural sector.

The Directorate of Agriculture was established in November 2011 for this purpose of providing better technical and administrative support for military run farms.
Now there are six military farms under the Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock. These farms produce paddy, dairy products, vegetables and fruits.
In addition the Directorate also handles seven other farms that function under the Sri Lanka Army General Service Corps (SLAGSC), and several other farms under different army establishments in various locations of the country.

Through the six agricultural projects in Udayarkattu, Kandakadu, Manik Farm, Wellankulam, Nachchikuda and Yala Palatupana, the army had generated an income of Rs. 55.13 million, while spending Rs. 26.18 million on them. These projects have yielded a net profit of Rs. 28.96 million for the past two years.
Besides handling the various paddy farms, the Army has engaged in unique task, namely to promote the various varieties of traditional rice, which are not dependent on fertiliser and pesticides. The use of chemical fertilisers and chemical pesticides, though enhancing the yield, has today become a major crisis – a result of the harmful chemical residue.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader  the Director Agriculture and Livestock, Colonel Buwaneka Gunaratne explained that before the introduction of fertiliser-dependant hybrids, over four hundred different varieties of rice were grown in the country, each with different nutrient values and characteristics. Now only a handful of rice strains are widely grown – almost all are hybrids.

He said that traditional varieties of Sri Lankan rice are known to contain higher amounts of glutamic acid and higher vitamin concentration.

The coarse grains are also richer in fiber content. They are also said to have a high nutritive value.

Their aim is to promote agriculture that does not poison the earth or upset the delicate balance of nature, whilst encouraging healthy lifestyles. In these farms, all agricultural activity has been centred on rediscovering the traditional, sustainable, nature friendly farming methods. Over the years, old and rare rice varieties have been cultivated in accordance with work and lifestyle ethics.

Crops are protected from bugs and pests using traditional and biological methods. Making and keeping of ritual vows to the spirits of the land as well as planting are also done in auspicious times. With traditional farming, respect is paid to local deities, and lunar cycle is used to determine auspicious times for planting and harvesting.

Unlike toxic chemical fertilisers now being used for the genetically modified varieties, which have resulted in a great percentage of the villagers, especially farmers, being diagnosed with kidney disease, biological pesticides made of crushed herbs are harmless to the living beings.

Although it is believed that the traditional rice varieties yield about 20% lesser than the modified varieties, considering the cost of fertiliser and pesticides as well as the harmful effects to humans and nature, cultivation of traditional rice varieties is definitely worth of having a better look.

 

Traditional Rice  Varieties Cultivated At Three Army Farms
Army Farm- Kandakadu
1. Suwandel 5 acres
2. Ran Thembili 2 acres
3. Ran Thembili El 2 acres
4. Kalu Heenati 2 acres
5. Muthu Samba 2 acres
Army Farm – Kuttigala
1. Suwandel 2 acres
2. Ran Thembili 2 acres
3. Ran Thembili El 2 acres
4. Kalu Heenati 2 acres
5. Muthu Samba 2 acres
Army Farm- Alla, Kantale
1. Suwandel 2 acres
2. Ran Thembili 2 acres
3. Ran Thembili El 2 acres
4. Kalu Heenati 2 acres
5. Muthu Samba 2 acres

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