Friday, March 18, 2011

Sri Lanka pushes home gardens to beat climate-linked food price hikes

Amantha Perera in AlertNet: As vegetable prices keep rising, accelerated by twin floods earlier this year, Sri Lanka’s government is pushing a country-wide home-garden programme to encourage Sri Lankans to grow what they might otherwise struggle to afford. The government has unveiled an effort to set up a million home gardens, aimed at growing vegetables for household consumption. The selected households in the country of 21 million people will be provided free seeds, fertilizer and technical advice.

“The recent floods showed us how vulnerable we are to climate change. It is better to be prepared for such calamities than feel sorry later on,” said Shyamalee Gunasekera, director of development at the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said home gardens potentially could help insulate households from widely fluctuating food prices brought on in part by increasingly erratic weather linked to climate change.

Floods in January and February that lashed the eastern and north central regions of Sri Lanka brought a year’s worth of rain in three months to some parts of the country, destroying paddy rice, field crops and vegetable plantations.

…“The home gardens are a golden concept but you have to do it right to hit the jackpot,” said crop expert Gamini Pushpakumara. The scientist, who heads the crop science division in the department of agriculture at the University of Peradeniya, one of Sri Lanka’s premier agriculture research institutes, believes up to 13 percent of the island’s land – 800,000 hectares – could potentially be used as home gardens. The land is not currently earmarked for agricultural use, but has no outstanding construction plans authorized, Pushpakumara said….

A landscape in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, shot by Hash Milhan, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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