Sustainable development goals key to overcoming agriculture challenges

Friday, 25 August 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

01 03Attributing the ongoing drought - the worst in decades - to climate change, a high-ranking Agriculture Ministry official yesterday noted the importance of adhering to the 17 sustainable development goals in ensuring food security.

Speaking at the fourth International Conference on Agriculture and Forestry held in Colombo yesterday, Agriculture Ministry Secretary B. Wijayaratne said three consecutive seasons of cultivation have been badly affected by the drought conditions prevalent in several parts of the country.

According to the latest Disaster Management Centre (DMC) figures, over 1.3 million individuals and over 370,000 families have been affected by the drought in 20 districts. Kurunegala is the worst hit, with over 231,000 people directly impacted so far.

“The Government is expending colossal amounts of money to give relief or rations,” said Wijayaratne, referring to a sum of Rs. 1.83 billion allocated by the Treasury for drought relief efforts.

Though the country has reached self-sufficiency in rice production, he said the Government has had to look into importing 300,000 metric tonnes of rice “immediately” to supply food to the people.

“Climate change is here to stay and we may have to face this situation repeatedly and constantly,” warned Wijayaratne, adding that this new global reality presents a tremendous challenge to the agriculture sector.

Referring to the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Ministry Secretary illustrated how they are directly or indirectly relevant to the sector.

“The first, second and third are particularly relevant: no poverty, no hunger, good health. All of these are related to food. The rest of the goals are also very strongly connected to agriculture,” he said, highlighting the need to take on the SDGs as a challenge to be overcome by the industry.

The conference, held under the theme ‘Current challenges and future perspectives of agriculture’, was organised by the International Institute of Knowledge Management (TIIKM), with over 100 industry representatives from some 25 countries taking part.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara