Thursday, February 5, 2009

Making use of the Agricultural Extension Officers and Veterinary Resources

If one reads through this blog in detail one would realize that the knowledge required of a physician in General Practice pales in comparison with the knowledge required of a peasant farmer if he is to perform his tasks productively. Sadly the best brains in the country are streamed into Medicine, an area where we will soon have a surplus of, while those who are unable to do anything else are forced into fields of Agriculture, where we are desperately short of talent. Herein lies another of the predicaments I constantly try to expose. While a doctor has the training in Western Medicine or Ayurvedic Medicine, the farmer needs to know the diseases both plant borne and pest borne and know how to cure them by the use of chemicals and organic means. Having the knowledge in one only is not sufficient.

My 10acre farm is in Godagama, Meegoda, and so my nearest town for everything is Homagama 4 kilometers away. I first visited the vet to ask him about a foot injury a newly born calf has, and how I should treat it as the first aid administered of Iodex, the usual remedy had not worked. I then had to ask him about the cow whose uterus was washed, but despite 4 attempts at artificial insemination we failed to get a conception, so we on the due date will provide a bull to see if the natural method will work. I was pleased to see the construction in progress of a lab to test blood etc so that we can get immediate results of tests, rather than the time it takes currently to get it from Welisara.

I then went next door to get some advice and also call upon the local agricultural advisor to visit the farm to give me some ideas of improvement to my current practices. I have for the first time, possibly due to the unseasonably dry conditions, seen a disease, borne by a small caterpillar affecting all my papaya plants. I grow them in organic conditions, but all my known methods have not worked. I discovered it was a virulent worm that attacks primarily papaya and manioc, both of which I have a number of plants, but also other vegetables. The only organic means is to destroy all affected plants, that means my whole crop, or else I have to use a pesticide to spray the affected plants and hope it kills the worm. I have chosen the latter, what would you chose? If your livelihood depended on it!

This leads me to the debate on organic foods. The most enthusiastic backers are those who have no idea how hard it is to grow truly organic. Even more surprising to them would be to know the real cost of growing that way will be completely out of reach of that person’s pocket. In the real world however well intentioned we are we have to take practical measures in combating emerging problems. I agree that much of the problems farmers face are as a result of the overuse of chemicals, cleverly marketed by MNC companies, which have destroyed some of the natural predators. However single farmers cannot combat this alone, and has to be done collectively, with close assistance from the non-profit sector if they are really serious about helping the rural low-income farmers. The government sector is lost in its own world of trying to find an agricultural policy, one which I intend coming up with before they can even get pen to paper.

It is apparent that for someone in a multi product enterprise like me, the tasks, hazards and challenges are constant, unpredictable and multifaceted.

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