In today's Sunday Times, there was a very forceful statement by the above MP who represents the Gampaha District for the UPFA under the JHU, which was that "Agrochemical Terrorism was worse than LTTE terrorism".
If one looks at the history of some of the International Agro Chemical Behemoths, such as Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, Cargill they have engaged in skillful chemical based agriculture, which includes GM (genetically modified) strains of Soya and Wheat which have made leaps in the productivity and output of some crops, enough to save the world from starvation.
In Sri Lanka's case the local Companies representing these and other multinational companies sell billions of rupees of toxic weedicides, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides collectively referred to as "BIOCIDES"to our poor farmers, who barely eke out an existence.
I have as a farmer used my share of these due to various factors, a major reason being the complete ruination of the soil over years of overuse, which necessitates further use in addition to chemical fertilizers to get a half way decent crop.
This proves that in order to get the farmers out of this catch 22 mere banning the use is not the answer. It has to be a gradual reduction in use coupled more importantly with the improvement of the soil, to historic levels, by considerable intelligent use of knowledge. We have to identify all the soils, break them up into areas, and make concerted efforts at improving the soil with the correct additives. If the Rs50B currently being wasted on importing and subsidizing chemical fertilizer, is used first in improving the fields for the use of mechanical means, as labor is now almost extinct in agriculture, then the soil needs to be improved, further the seeds used should be more adaptable to local conditions, and not the imported seeds one sees for sale.
By a careful long term plan, we can improve the resistance of local varieties to the common pests and by mixed farming practices both enrich the soil, and grow complementary crops, conserving the waste of water that currently takes place. It requires a huge investment in education of the farming community, that is those willing to farm, not the girls who go to Agricultural Faculty who do not want to dirty their painted nails.
There was one interesting thing he mentioned in his Q&A session which was that if Khomba or Neem ( also known as Margosa) seeds are crushed and sprinkled, the pests would avoid the area. I have tried so hard to get the local boys to collect all the Khomba seeds that fall of the trees in August and September in my area with a handsome payout, but they have singularly failed to do so. Is it that they are too lazy or that they have enough money? I don't have the answer, but it goes to show that even if we have the will the way has to be shown to the people to appreciate the importance of that.
We have to educate everyone including the youth on the value of such things like the Neem seed. This process cannot be done in a short time. There are insurmountable obstacles as the money in Chemicals is huge, and the pressure groups enormous to prevent politicians taking action, but it has to be done in a way that is practical and equitable, and we can then wean the companies to produce natural means of control, and better techniques more suitable to our soil, climate and conditions. We need a blue print on how to achieve this over a period of time, coupled with a conscious emphasis on training people in sustainable agriculture.
It is the people in the end that have to be persuaded, and there I find the majority not interested in the alternatives, which also reflect the government level of inaction. Until our society becomes more energetic, energized and not dependent on others for their employment we can go forward. It is an electorally unpopular move and the politicians who want sycophants around them do not want to miss a beat and do something unpopular, and so the nation dies.
Like the enlightened priest said, 20.000 have died due to poisoning and a further 20,000 are dying a slow death and we do nothing about it. Lets prevent the next 20,000 contracting these illnesses all this at a huge cost to the nation.