Friday, January 16, 2009

What is happening to our agricultural land?

I had a woman come to me for help with money. She told me a little bit of history of her family, I would like to relate it as a true story, showing what was and what is to all these settlements we have created in the interests of improving the agricultural output of the land.

Her Grandmother was seen working in the fields one day by the government agent here in Minneriya who was riding on horseback reviewing the area under his control. In those days there was a lot of responsibility and power vested in such a person to manage the area on behalf of the government. I did not ask her if this man was white or local, but it was in the days prior to independence.

I presume in the British times with modes of transport and foot paths the norm the horseback mode was the preferred mode of travel of the British which also gave them some sort of level of superiority over their natives!!!

Anyway he had seen that she was a hardworking person and asked her if he gave her some land whether she would cultivate it, to which she agreed. She therefore got 10 acres of ‘mada’ waterlogged and a similar area of ‘goda’ higher elevation. She and her husband diligently cultivated this and she recalls her father being a very respected member of the locality, where people bowed their heads as he had inherited a valuable income earning agricultural land, which his parents had built up through hard work over a long period of years.

On her inheritance she shared this with her sister and so got half of the land, which in her lifetime she had to sell parts and distribute parts with her 5 children to survive. I did not ask her if her husband was an alcoholic or dissipated much of the wealth she inherited but I gathered that it was the case. She is now reduced to wanting to borrow small sums to meet expenses.

I know the whole strip of land she inherited as it borders my property and I know at least 15 families live on this land including 4 of her children, with one who is trying to sell her property so she could move into her husband's village. There is almost no agricultural property left, possible just for a family to grow enough paddy for their own consumption and now an asset is considered the home or house and not agricultural land that had earlier been earmarked by the state. This is what has happened to our agricultural land.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Salad leaves

One of my subsidiary goals for 2009 is to increase the volume of fresh leaves I can grow and deliver to my customers, as well as giving them a choice of about 20 varieties from which to choose. If I have a dedicated vehicle just to deliver the leaves and have the order forms filled with customers leaving the money for their order in their homes, I can actually have this service more organized so I can deliver to multiple locations as many times a week as the demand and supply fit.

Before I get in over my head with the ambitions to grow more varieties of leaf with mint being the latest I am trying to find cuttings to plant, I have just been successful in growing the first crop of salad leaves all of which sold out on my last delivery on Monday and I have put a few more seeds on the ground. In my case there was never any use of pesticides and so I was very surprised that they had not been attacked my any sort of bug. I know how much pesticides the farmers in Nuwera Eliya, who do not grow it under green houses use, so I was proud to show this to my customers who had no hesitation in agreeing to take them. I did not tell the price, of Rs30/- a bunch, which is the price of all my leaves, though I know it cost me a lot more than that to produce.

I took a photo of both my salad leaves and ‘kola guava’ to post here. This is traditionally known as Nuwera Eliya produce but if one saw how well they grow here in Godagama, only 28km from Colombo people will be surprised.

Just making one other point on leaves, I have decided as part of this same exercise to learn what leaves are used for kola kanda and attempt to locate them growing wild in my property and carefully husband them. It is amazing how much the locals know of the leaves and the preparation method for mallung. I am not a great leaf eater myself and am slowly learning some of the secrets and will share them with you my reader as and when I learn about them. In this regard I am trying to prepare a kola kanda mix to be part of my delivery items, so that the preparer will not have to do too much in its preparation, which is always a problem in Colombo homes which now have fewer domestics than in the past. Those who are there know less and less in of the ways of preparing the various items and will one day require handbook to accompany the product.