The Program, developed in Northern Sri Lanka, theater of the long interethnic conflict which ended in 2009, can be considered a best practice of sustainable development in agricultural and environmental sectors. Main goal of the action is to enhance farmer resilience by introducing sustainable agricultural methods fighting climate change and (re)establishing crop diversification. The program involves 1.982 vulnerable small farmer’s families from 22 remote agriculture-based villages. Through the action, it has be possible to create a network of Toxin Free Crop Producers in 22 villages, to replant 500 hectares of deteriorated forestry area, to increase water access with 12 water basins and 61 wells, to introduce organic production and crop diversification, to establish a seed bank and finally to set up 19 food processing centers thanks to which 1589 farmers could promote their products in the local and international market.
Oxfam Italia - ItalyLead applicant
Oxfam lavora per aiutare le persone a migliorare le loro condizioni di vita, fornendo loro sostegno e risorse adeguate, favorendo processi di sviluppo sostenibili nel lungo periodo. Si incarica di portare acqua, servizi igienico-sanitari e rifugi alle popolazioni vittime di conflitti e disastri naturali, e quando l’emergenza è finita, sostiene la ricostruzione fino al ritorno alla normalità. Pubblica analisi e organizza eventi di informazione per influenzare le politiche che causano la povertà e l’ingiustizia globale; tramite percorsi educativi ed iniziative di mobilitazione, stimola i cittadini a chiedere ai leader un maggior impegno nella difesa e nella promozione degli interessi delle persone più povere e vulnerabili.
Autonomous Province of Bozen/Bolzano, Department of Presidency and Foreign Affairs, Office of Cabinet Affairs - ItalyInitiative partner
Competences in the area of international development cooperation, non profit associations, national and local community service, bi- and trilingual exams, usage of mother tongue, social services, consumer protection,emergency measures, usage of the coat of arms, foundations.
Rainforest Rescue International - Sri LankaInitiative partner
RRI plays a pioneering role in environmental protection, biodiversity, natural resources protection and ecologically sound agriculture in Sri Lanka. Over the past years, RRI has worked in 5 out of the 9 provinces of Sri Lanka. RRI’s focus is on environmental protection (protection and conservation of fragile ecosystems, biodiversity) and sustainable, communal development (organic agriculture). RRI activities in the different parts of Sri Lanka can be described as follows: trainings and support in the development of marketing strategies for farmers, development of a biodiversity corridor and introduction of sustainable agricultural practices, reforestation of tropical rainforest in accordance with the principles of analog forestry, for eco-tourism purposes and for practical studies, sustainable fisheries, establishment of sustainable agriculture, improvement of livelihoods and strengthening the resilience towards climate change and soil degradation, environmental education.
To revive deserted wastelands with green, nutritious organic crops, from the hands of those who had abandoned them, forced by conflicts and war, now nurturing their communities with safe, healthy and quality food: this is the main essence of the experience. An experience which granted fragile and poor communities the capability to pursue food security and to generate sustainable income in a context of social stability, thanks to the creation of social economic networks and windows on local and international markets. An ecological mean to cope with the emerging unfavorable effects of climate change, thanks to the differentiation of crops and the production under organic conditions which fully respect health and environment and reduce dependency from external inputs and risk of financial exposure to seasonal lost. Overall, an innovative step towards social integration, financial stability and food security.
The main trait of this experience consists in an “innovative environmentally friendly low cost model of farming at a small scale”, which is mainly based on the combination of “home made” organic fertilization, pest control and crop diversification. With appropriate training, new crops have been reintroduced to replace the monoculture of rice. Such crop diversification results in fewer losses due to extreme climatic events and improves the nutritional value of the family diet. Moreover, it gives the possibility of selling the surplus to the processing centers and retail outlets: both of them have been established by this experience as a mean of income and of dissemination of healthy food.
The diversification has been accompanied by proper training in making natural and organic pesticides and fertilizers, thus enabling the saving of considerable income and allowing consumption of safe food products at a price accessible even to the poorest.
The program has been carried out in Northern Sri Lanka, theater of the long interethnic conflict which ended in 2009. The war destroyed infrastructures, land, water basins and wells, weakening the socio-economic structure of the country. Entire communities had been displaced and only recently were able to resettle. The region is classified as “Dry Zone”, with a rainy season between October and April, followed by a dry season, but climate change is causing frequent devastating floods alternated with extreme droughts, damaging crops and infrastructures.
Most families relay on agriculture and own small portion of land (1-2 acres). Coming back from refugee camps without any skills or inputs they were forced to reintroduce conventional monoculture, with high use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid varieties, which had to be paid by loans thus causing a loss of income and a great damage to health (ref. chronic renal failure leading to 2000 mortalities only in 2009) and environment.
The program created a multi-ethnic network of Toxin Free Crop Producers in 22 villages of the 3 main ethnic groups (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim) of the region, establishing 19 food processing centers. 1589 farmers could promote their organic products in the local and international market.
500 hectares of deteriorated forestry areas have been re-planted with 518.636 plants, while 840.566 firewood plants were introduced in the gardens to reduce the extraction from forest patches. The program also increased water access, rehabilitating 12 water basins and building 61 wells. Local fish species have been reintroduced: the first harvest produced 23 tons of fish.
1982 vulnerable families improved their diet and saved 30% of their income through organic production, crop diversification (1.300.000 new plants) and seed saving practices. Families cultivated and ate “toxin free” products, by using organic farming practices: minimizing chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid seeds.
Main beneficiaries have been 1.982 vulnerable small farmer’s families from 22 remote agriculture-based villages of the dry northern areas of Sri Lanka. Most of them lost their sources of livelihoods due to the war.
The project addressed their overall need to re-establish a sustainable source of livelihood and to develop strategies to cope with the emerging of extreme climatic events, which cause heavy harvest losses. In particular, the program minimized the dependency from commercial inputs (seeds, pesticides, fertilizers), since the heavy loans taken to pay them hamper the possibility to invest money on education, health, and food and reduced the high risk of lost in case of adverse climatic conditions. Moreover, through promoting corporate smallholder farmer approach the program contributed to restore the social and economic structure torn by the war and facilitated cooperation among the different ethnic groups and the local authorities for the managing of local resources.
The program has been implemented in partnership with Rainforest Rescue International (RRI).
An Oxfam senior project manager with agro-forestry background has coordinated the field action with RRI staff. One technical coordinator and four field officers, expert in sustainable organic agro-forestry, introduced the best practices and developed the 1.982 forest gardens. One marketing expert and a food processing and value addition expert established the marketing centers and the commercial network, while a technical coordinator supported the reinforcement of natural resources. At community level 22 local Community Based Organizations were engaged. They recruited 22 Community Extension trainees who have been trained to disseminate the best practices to the farmers. 110 members of the 22 CBOs were selected to establish 22 Sales Committees, and project staff built their capacity to process, package and market products and later to be linked in the commercial network.
The program has been implemented under difficult circumstances mainly due to severe climate conditions, such as long periods of draught and devastating floods.
There have been two main floods (2012, 2014) and two extraordinary extended dry periods (2012, 2013) which affected northern region, destroying harvests. During the second draught there has been an assessment to identify the most vulnerable families, in order to modify the original plan and improve their access to water. At the end of the program 40 individual and collective new wells were built in favor of 148 families (mainly with single women), selected among the most affected by the draught. Another difficulty consisted in working with people who had spent many years in refugee camps in a climate of mutual distrust among different ethnic groups. Great time and energy has been invested in promoting dialogue between the parties, involving local authorities toward the common goal of sustainable development and food security.
The program developed environmentally friend agriculture practices and strengthen natural resource sustainable management.
This has been achieved through:
1) The extensive permanent introduction of environmentally sound practices in agriculture to reduce chemicals fertilizer and pesticides, which had enormous positive impacts on the environment
2) The introduction of ecological restoration following the principles of the Analog Forestry, which uses natural forests to recreate ecological stability by ensuring also socio-economically productive landscapes. The project developed an environmental-balanced combination of 1982 diversified productive forest gardens, where over 36 different species are cultivated as alternative to monoculture.
3) The establishment of live fences around the forest gardens with over 800.000 plants of firewood species to increase access to sustainable energy for domestic use and reduce the stress of timber extraction from the residual forest patches.
Thanks to this program, other actors were interested to pursue similar actions. Particularly the German Government funded a new initiative to link the established communities with new villages adopting the same methodology.
Similarly, Almayuda foundation (Spain) also funded similar intervention and contributed to the reinforcement of the water access (by funding wells also contributing to crop diversification)
Several processing food centers started on their own initiative to generate new business thanks to the received facilities and skills.
At a community level many farmers, who had not been selected to participate in the program, requested a training to introduce organic practices in their land. The opening of three selling points at a national level also contributed to disseminate the results of the program, thus setting the path for similar experience and spreading the viability for a sustainable, healthy and accessible-to-all food.
To disseminate best practices and methodologies of the program, an International meeting on “Climate Resilient Agriculture” has been organized, which took place in Colombo with the intervention of national universities, ministries, companies, Ngos, international organizations and local authorities, as well as the Minister of Agriculture. The same selling points are a window of innovation and awareness rising on the issues tackled by the program, granting a strong visibility on a national market level. Several videos have been produced and projected in several international events and in Oxfam work with the schools (videos: green elementary; 10 women portraits; water video; toxin free products spot).