By Shezna Shums
The Ministry of Agriculture together with the World Food Programme is to work for the expansion of agricultural practices in the North and East of the country.
Ministry of Agriculture Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena last week (26 May) accepted some equipment donated to the Ministry of Agriculture by the World Food Programme. The items donated were 155 containers, 52 weighing scales and tarpaulins at a cost of US $ 414, 300 and was meant to fund a post harvest assistance project which is to provide container storage in the North to store fertiliser, seed paddy and harvested paddy.
The total funding for the project amounted to US $ 696,000 and came from AUS Aid, Norway and Switzerland. At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, the World Food Programme (WFP) is to launch a pilot project utilising the balance funding of approximately US$ 240,000 available under the programme.
The two agencies involved in this project are the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Institute of Post Harvest Technology (IPHT).
The project consists of three components viz. storage of grains at household level, rice processing and value addition at community level and improving rice flour milling industry in villages as well as the promotion of community development through farm women groups on post harvest technologies.
The proposed grains storage is an innovative method tried out by Agricultural Department and selected farmers are to be provided with a plastic bin of two metric tonnes capacity and a structure for keeping the bin. The cost of each bin is about US $ 330 and the cost of the structure to hold the bin is approximately US $ 360. Under the project the WFP is to provide 100 plastic storage bins and supporting structures.
The other category which is rice processing and value addition at community level is to function with technical support from the IPHT. This is a proven method by IPHT in other areas of the country. Simple rice par boiling equipment is introduced with technical support of IPHT for technology and quality control to selected villages in the North. The par boiling equipment is to be supplied to the farmers by the WFP.
Farmer groups who produce good quality rice will be further supported by Cargills Ltd. to market their product through their Supermarkets.The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation has agreed to provide technical support for this project.
In addition IPHT has proposed to improve the quality of rice flour industry in the villages in the project areas. Under this component existing rice flour millers would be given improved flour sifters and technical know-how so that villagers will be able to use improved rice flour to make their food preparations. The WFP will provide 20 such flour sifters.
The promotion of community development through farm women groups on post harvest technologies, is to be handled by the Women’s Agricultural Extension Programme.
The first step of the programme will be training of farm women and the second step will be promoting agro-based entrepreneurship among rural women groups.
Strengthening and expanding the modes of technology dissemination to rural women will be the third step.
In addition to the training each district will receive an assortment of kitchen tools for demonstration, Chinese marques, mobile carts and a mobile van for the Department of Agriculture.
The number of villages selected for the pilot intervention is four in Vavuniya, four in Mannar, three in Jaffna, four in Killinochchi and four in Mullaitivu.
Under the crop assistance project for strengthening national Thriposha the WFP is supporting to enhance Thriposha production by providing additional machinery to the Thriposha factory at Ja ela. With the enhanced capacity in the production plant, Sri Lanka needs to increase soya production in the country. In order to address this requirement WFP has decided to support soya cultivation to produce quality soy seeds in irrigation schemes. The total cost of the project in US $ 470,000.
The project is currently ongoing in the Anuradhapura District. WFP would provide support to the Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Development.
Under this project Farmer organisations involved in soya cultivation would be financially assisted to produce quality soya using approved seeds and technical assistance from the Department of Agriculture.
The Irrigation Management Division of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Management will organise farmers’ irrigation management support and will assist in collection and marketing through farmer organisations.
As an initial step four motor cycles will be donated to the Department of Agriculture and Irrigation Management Division to enhance their field supervision.