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Capacity Development of Agrarian Research-Policy-Technology Personnel in Sri Lanka on Global Change and Sustainability

The agricultural policy of Sri Lanka is principally intended to achieve food security of the nation. The strategies chosen in this policy symbolizes the ‘awareness’ of policy makers on the concept of sustainable development of agriculture which is synonymous with greening of agriculture in a green economy perspective. While the rural agrarian sector significantly contributes to produce a large part of the food requirement of the nation, there is an array of sector specific calamities showing the overall dilemma prevailing in this sector. Farming communities have a lower social status; adverse environmental externalities and declining profitability portray how agrarian development efforts have fallen short sustainability goals. Aging of the farm population and youth drifting away from farming, poverty, malnutrition and poor living conditions, life threatening health hazards like Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDU) portray the poor social identity of these farming communities. Encroachment and clearing of forests for food production, indiscriminate use of pesticides and excessive use of subsidized fertilizers to compensate the declining productivity, extensive mechanized land preparation and over use of water resources have threatened the natural resource base. Changing climatic conditions coupled with pest attacks have largely contributed to perpetuate declining farm productivity leading to shrinking sectoral growth at national level. The given social, economic and environmental failures question the sustainability of present agricultural systems. Given this situation the question is how can policy makers contribute to surmount these adverse circumstances?

Too often, policy decisions are made based on financial and/or political interests without taking the environmental and social aspects into consideration. The awareness of policy makers of the relationship of these different aspects is seen to be inadequate for optimal-decision making. The mere ‘awareness’ of the concepts of sustainability does not provide the assurance that the holistic decisions are made and effectively transformed into desirable development efforts. Increased awareness on the three pillar approach of sustainable development - social, environmental and financial sustainability or People, Planet and Profit in acronymic term is a must for this. This is where the role of researchers becomes important in providing a scientific guidance for policy formulation process through awareness raising and building capacities of policy makers on three pillar approach of sustainability. Therefore the core research problem here is the policy formulation process is largely driven on economic interests in the current context due to lack of measures in different dimensions of sustainability of agriculture in quantitative terms. Such measures will help sensitize policy makers; indicate relative significance between three dimensions of sustainability and act as supportive decision tools which make agrarian policy formulation process more efficient and effective. Such tools are yet to be developed. In order to address the causes for the research problem aforesaid, this research as a pioneering effort, aims at constructing measures for social, economic and environmental sustainability -The Indices of sustainability. The research will be conducted by selecting prominent farming systems seen in the South East Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. The indices of sustainability so constructed will signify the degree of sustainability between diverse farming options and will indicate the social, economic and environmental status where farm operations are undertaken. They will also act as aids for awareness creation among policy makers and decision tools in agrarian policy formulation process which will result in sustained human prosperity, financial viability and environmental quality in the rural agrarian sector of the country.

The proposed study comprises of both research and dissemination/knowledge transfer components. The research component is undertaken by a selected team of HARTI researchers under the guidance and the supervision of the project leader and the project collaborators. The capacity building component is aimed at dissemination of knowledge to the rest of the stakeholders in the agrarian sector of the country. For the convenience of project implementation and progress monitoring, the project leader, while preserving the overall project responsibility, has delegated the responsibilities of selected farming systems to the TEAM .