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Agriculture, environment and food security in the context of rice

Listed author(s):
  • Dharmasena, P. B.
Registered author(s):

    Agriculture requires inputs, which can be found within the system or need to be supplied from outside. The latter, referred to as the ‘Green Revolution’ in the 1950s and developed as the high external input agriculture, has spread over the world as a solution to the food crisis that arose due to World War II. The drive embraced a special package including high- yielding crop varieties, inorganic fertilizer, agro- chemicals and farm machineries. As a result, farmers in many developing countries began to practice mono-cropping with high external inputs. This has turned traditional ecological agriculture into environmentally destructive food production systems, which provided huge amounts of produce causing serious environmental damage. During the ‘Green Revolution’ traditional crop varieties were replaced by high-yielding new improved varieties, which had higher yield potential. However, natural pest resistance of these high-yielding varieties was generally poor, while nutritive requirements were high. Increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilizer is a matter of concern. Some of the issues and problems due to indiscriminate use of pesticides are: a) pest resistance; b) pest resurgence; c) health hazards; d) environmental pollution; and e) lower profits to farmers. Extensive use of chemical fertilizer has created environment issues such as nitrate leaching, release of greenhouse gases and eutrophication of inland water bodies. Millennium development goals earmark the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, while ensuring environmental sustainability. This dispels the concept of achieving food security in any country through the adoption of high external input agriculture. Sri Lanka remains vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones, landslides, epidemics etc., causing substantial threats to the food security situation of the country. Challenges posed by external factors due to globalization and open- economic policies have directed the country’s agriculture to move away from self- reliance. This situation demands a firm and perfect policy for the country’s agriculture. Furthermore, present agriculture does not show any indication of sustainability as it has ignored the centuries-old wisdom of traditional agriculture. Farmers’ dependency mentality evolved due to modern agriculture and government policies, which dealt with agriculture from time to time. This should be gradually replaced by developing farmers’ self- confidence, selfmotivation and empowerment. There is a great potential to increase productivity in Sri Lanka as only 40 % of the average potential for grain yield was achieved in different ecological and hydrological regimes. By narrowing this gap between actual and potential yield, Sri Lanka will not only increase productivity but also increase the competitive advantage for rice with other countries in the region. The experiences of the present productivity improvement program of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) have clearly shown that the average yield could be increased. In achieving food security in the country, a major set back in the development process is that institutional linkage among agencies responsible for water, land, agriculture and environment is very weak, and they work in isolation, setting their own targets. The need is felt for the immediate formulation of a firm policy to implement a sustainable agricultural production program in the country in order to ensure the food security in Sri Lanka.Length: pp.47-56

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    Paper provided by International Water Management Institute in its series Conference Papers with number h042893.

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    Date of creation: 2010
    Handle: RePEc:iwt:conppr:h042893
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