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Sri Lanka

SRICANSOL II – Sustainable Soil and Crop Management

Sri_Lanka

Partners

Agricultural Institute of Canada
Canadian Society of Soil Science
Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka (SSSSL)

Contacts

Canada Coordinators – Dr. Tee Boon Goh and Robert Eilers
Sri Lanka Coordinator – Dr. WMADB Wickramasinghe

Highlights

  • A new stage of a continuing project that will apply the information and knowledge from previous stages towards improved livelihoods and nutritional status of the rural farming communities in agriculturally, economically and sociologically important farming systems in Sri Lanka.
  • Identification of soil fertility constraints and unwise practices which lead to soil and water pollution in major farming/cropping systems.
  • Education of a wide cross-section of the community on how crop production and crop productivity improvements can be both economically profitable and environmentally friendly.
  • Development of a soil management database to be integrated with the SRICANSOL digital soil database for decision supporting tools on soil fertility and constraints, and soil/water pollution in major farming/cropping systems.
  • Specific engagement of women at all levels and in all processes.
  • Geographic Focus Area: Selected farming/cropping systems in each of the wet, intermediate and dry zones.
  • In Sri Lanka, agricultural land can be subdivided into two main categories – the plantation sector, consisting mainly of tea, rubber, coconut and to a lesser extent, spice crops; and the peasant food crops sector, consisting of the staples, rice, maize, millets, onion, potato and other tuber crops, vegetables and fruits. A considerable proportion of the production from the plantation sector is exported to earn foreign exchange, while almost all the production of the peasant sector is used for local consumption.

Past agricultural practices, such as application of large quantities of fertilizer and agrochemicals to obtain higher returns from high value crops and no resting periods for the land, have led to soil degradation and poor productivity, increased erosion hazards, and increased pollution of the important surface and sub-surface water reservoirs. Much of the intensive cultivations are practiced in areas where natural water bodies are present, and pollution of these water bodies may contribute to health problems in the surrounding communities.

With a focus on food security, the current political strategy is to increase foreign exchange earned by exporting plantation crops and to import additional food and other requirements. In this context, it is necessary to increase agricultural production either by expanding cultivation or by obtaining higher quantity of production. With ever increasing demands for land for non-agricultural activities the possibilities of expanding agricultural land area is remote. The only alternative is to increase production on the decreasing arable land area. Given that the production per unit area of most of the agricultural crops has either declined or stagnated in recent decades, increasing production levels is impossible to achieve if the constraints cannot be identified and rectified.

The SSSSL and CSSS have a long history of working together to promote soil science; most recently in support of the work undertaken by SSSSL in the characterization and classification of the soils of Sri Lanka. This project will use the information and knowledge from the past work to extend better soil and land management practices in different cropping/farming systems in which income generation, soil fertility, environmental, social and economic problems are distinct. The project will focus on meeting the needs of optimal crop/food production, improved human health and reduced risk to the environment.

The selected farming/cropping systems are:

  • Intensive vegetable cultivation systems in Nuwara Eliya and Badulla Districts. This is the major vegetable producing area and contributes significantly to the national economy. It engages a large number of plantation workers, predominantly Tamil and female. This system has a very high impact on the environment due to heavy application of agrochemicals, and the areas are highly vulnerable to erosion.
  • Vegetable cultivation in upper slopes of mountains in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy Districts. These areas act as watersheds for most of the river basins and major tanks and lakes in the country. Earth slips and erosion are the major problems. Siltation of major tanks reduces the water storing capacity which affects the country’s electricity supply and water supply for irrigation. Farm income in this system is insufficient to feed the family. Hence, farmer encroachment occurs into nearby protected forest lands to increase the cultivated land area.
  • Intensive onion and vegetable cultivation in Regosols (Entisols) ofKalpitiyaPeninsulaand eastern coast. Ground water pollution due to nitrate leaching into the domestic wells has been reported already.
  • Intensive paddy cultivation in Ampara, Mahiyangana, Polonaruwa, andAnuradhapura . Paddy cultivation is the main agricultural activity in Sri Lanka and is given high priority in food security. All three ethnic groups are engaged in paddy farming in these areas. The productivity in the rice sector is low and therefore paddy farming is not a profitable venture. As such, application of fertilizer or organic manure is not practiced appropriately.
  • As information is gathered, better management practices will be developed for specific soil/cropping practices within the selected areas. Standard practices will be adopted to deliver this information and protocols will be developed to support the monitoring of agro-chemical use and application.

In addition to the production of various information packages, dissemination of knowledge through printed materials, field workshops and training sessions will be conducted for rural community and extension specialists at the field level as a means of extending and communicating good management practices for sustainable land use. To foster the participation of women, their views on improving soil/cropping practices in their locales will be specifically solicited, gender sensitive training materials will be prepared, and training sessions will be conducted in a manner to maximize women’s involvement.

SSSSL will work together with local farm organizations, universities, Departments of Agriculture and Education, NGO’s and private institutes, and the Canadian partners in implementing this project.

Complete project results are presented in the Final Report for the AIC International Twinning Partnership Program, pages, 58 to 66.

AIC’s International Twinning Partnership Program (ITPP) provides opportunities for Canadian Member Organizations to work cooperatively and share expertise with developing country partner organizations through long-term partnerships. The ITPP promotes technological and scientific innovations in agricultural practices that are environmentally viable and sustainable, and develops increased awareness and understanding of international development among AIC Member Organizations. This Program is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

 

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