- Highlights importance of strengthening all agricultural institutions
Marking a milestone in the agricultural sector in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, the Agriculture In-Service Training Institute (ISTI) was declared open by President Maithripala Sirisena in Batticaloa recently. The ISTI was reconstructed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) with funding of EUR 456,600 (Rs. 82 million) from the European Union.
President arrives for the ceremonial opening of the Agriculture In-Service Training Institute in Karadiyanaru, Batticaloa
Speaking at the ceremony President Maithripala Sirisena stated that the main priority of the Government is to eradicate poverty and strengthen the economy of the people.
“Food production needs to take place within our country and as an agriculture based economy it is essential to strengthen all agricultural institutions,” said the President.
“Therefore, this In-Service Training Institute is vital for the province. On behalf of the Government and the people of Sri Lanka I extend my gratitude to the European Union for providing the financial support to establish this institute. I also appreciate the support extended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations towards agricultural development. The In-Service Training Institute in Karadiyanru should develop to the level of other major agriculture training institutes such as the institute in Gannorwau in Kandy. For this purpose, I have allocated an additional Rs. 25 million to further develop the Karadiyanru In-Service Training Institute.”
Handing over of training manuals to the President by Dr. D. Wijeratne, Additional FAO Representative
The ISTI in Karadiyanaru was established in 1980 by the Department of Agriculture to provide specialised training to agriculture extension officers in the Eastern Province, practically oriented residential training for officers as well as farmers, and vocational training to farm youths. The ISTI was fully functional until it was destroyed during the war in 1986, rendering it inoperative for three decades. This created a vacuum in the trainings provided to agriculture extension officers in the province who had to travel to other agriculture ISTIs located in Gannoruwa, Angunukolapalessa and Aralaganwila to gain knowledge. Language difficulties and travelling distance meant that less numbers of extension officers visiting these ISTIs leading to a lack of advance technologies adopted in daily agricultural activities within the Eastern Province.
The reconstruction of this much-needed training institute which commenced in October 2016 through the EU Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) will benefit over 150 extension officers in the province every year. “The EU-SDDP is the European Union’s largest development initiative in Sri Lanka. Through this program, the EU is assisting seven districts in the North and East to make a transition from post-conflict assistance to reconstruction and development,” said Willem Verpoest, First Counsellor of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “We see agricultural development as a priority in ensuring food security, poverty reduction and enabling inclusive economic growth. The restoration of productive infrastructure facilities such as the Agriculture In-Service Training Institute in Karadiyanaru, the only such institute in the Eastern Province, will enable the Government to provide an effective and efficient service to the farming communities who require assistance to revive their livelihoods.”
The ISTI website launched by the President in the presence of Willem Verpoest, First Counsellor of the EU
The EU partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to re-establish a technically advanced ISTI in Karadiyanaru. The ISTI consists of a fully-furnished conference hall with a capacity to seat 300 persons, lecture halls, a hostel and a library. In addition,20 acres of demonstration plots are being established for practical trainings such as on sustainable land management, ecological farming, rainwater harvesting, micro-irrigation, protected agriculture and intensified home gardening. Systematic and continuous training at the ISTI will produce extension officers in the Eastern Province who will become specialists in various fields of expertise. “The reactivation of the ISTI in Batticaloa will no doubt revitalise the agricultural training system as it will be a hub for research and the transfer of agricultural technologies in the Eastern Province,” said Nina Brandstrup, FAO Representative to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “An increase in crop productivity, higher quality products and better income can be achieved if farmers and agriculture extension officers work together, sharing best practices and expertise. The skills, knowledge and attitudinal change acquired through quality trainings, farm demonstrations and farm models at the ISTI will support the modernisation of the agricultural sector in the Eastern Province, thereby driving economic and social progress for all.”
Jointly implemented by five agencies of the United Nations and IFC, the EU-SDDP with a total financial envelope of EUR 60 million aims at supporting the thrust of the Government of Sri Lanka towards economic and social development in seven conflict-affected districts covering half a million people.