Today's (3rd July 2011) Lankadeepa, page 4 of the 'Thaksalava' section has two related but quite different issues relating agriculture and the current debate. The first article on the top half is showing the benefit of a paddy field cultivated completely on the traditional principles, without any use of pesticides and weedicides, with an old variety of rice called 'kalu heenati'.
The second is of farmers burning their now seedforming paddy fields due to the lack of water being sent by the bureaucrats to their fields due to these government servants paying homage to local politicians. I will not discuss this at length as it is an elementary intervention required to divert water without prejudice to the needy farmers to cultivate their 1500 acres of paddy, as there is plenty of water in the area to cultivate, and the basics of clearing and upgrading the anicuts being the issue.
The former is the battle with totally opposing camps, which don't appear to see the middle ground. I read daily about" rabid organists" for want of a better word, who play upon people's sensitivities to spread their word, much like the born again preachers. It is in this "Arsenic" context that this topic has come to the fore. The greedy multinational pesticide and chemical suppliers are blamed for the arsenic in the soil, and as the proponent in this article, Susatha M Paranagama, is associated with the Kelaniya University, Dr Nalin de Silva camp of fear mongers, sets the stage for a reversion back to the traditional age.
I do not dispute his logic as it is infinitely more healthy to grow food in the organic way. As a practitioner who has attempted these ideas, I feel his approach is eminently impractical. His words, and I quote "Ape govikamata manush shramaya one" which when translated means we need Manual Labor for our Agriculture. "Pray Paranagama, where do I find men and boys?" I am the only one available to work my paddy fields and I cannot do that today thanks to Mahinda Chinthana weda pilivela, which begat speeding ministerial convoys that kill and maim innocent people including farmers who are willing to give of their Manush Shramaya. Can he find one person in his university willing to pick up a mammoty?
This is the problem with experts, and dons. They are only of a theoretical mindset who think that just because he is an adviser to an experimental, one acre or less plot in the Kirimatiyagara Paddy Fields, that gives him the authority to expound this as a national policy to be adopted.
I have no love for multinationals who squeeze the living daylights out of us, but I want to be practical in coming up with a solution to the Nationwide food production Issue as well as provide guidelines in its implementation with minimal harm to the soil, environment and our citizens, but which will enable our country to be self sufficient in most of the basics of the food we eat.
Whilst I agree wholeheartedly that I can eat once cup of "Kalu Heenati Rice" instead of three cups of the less healthy currently available rices to fill my stomach, we have first to have a system of doing this side by side so that eventually this goal could be achieved for those who are willing to pay the higher cost of this production, which still denies the masses of the quality. If he tells me he can produce this at much less or equal cost he is dreaming in technicolor as there are no humans available to work the land and want to work the land unless they are given a four wheel tractor to drive, as the two wheel one is also too labor intensive and too exhausting for our youth of today.
So please let us discuss this issue like adults and not kids in class rooms and come up with a national policy. My suggestion is to have a province or at least a District dedicated to organic farming methods as part of a large experiment and see how we can improve the quality of life of those who live there along with producing output that can be marketed at prices that those who produce can live off of, and succeed in their own personal goals. If this is so successful the whole nation will adopt it, if it is not, we have not forced a whole nation to starve due to the actions of the few well intentioned fools!!