Organic farming is a system that completely avoids or largely excludes the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Organic farming is based on crop rotation, use of crop residues, animal excretion and off-farm organic waste. Organic methods used in agriculture can increase productivity, repair environmental damage and protect nature in the long term. Well managed, organic farming is one of the best ways to promote food self-sufficiency and food security in a country and also to ensure environmental protection.
Abandon traditional methods
Since the introduction of chemical fertilizers into agriculture in Sri Lanka, for a time, farmers have gradually become dependent and have mostly abandoned traditional cultivation methods using natural fertilizers. The use of chemical fertilizers has become an easier method compared to that of organic substances.
The government’s bold decision, under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to completely stop importing chemical fertilizers, overnight became a national issue with sheer admiration and some criticism. With the exception of a tiny fraction of society, almost every citizen of the country, including the majority of the country’s farmers’ unions, hailed the decision. While farmers in some areas genuinely face difficulties due to lack of fertilizer, almost all of the other critics are those influenced by politics and those with sinister monetary interests.
This opposition segment mainly includes opposition parties and those influenced by financially powerful fertilizer importers. In addition, a small segment of the media, print and electronic, is also resisting the movement for possible financial gains.
Events for personal benefit
It is clearly evident that most of the protests across the country over the fertilizer shortage are politically motivated. These despicable elements who try to create unrest in society use the situation for cheap political gain or act with the support of importers of chemical fertilizers for personal gain.
Globally, organic farming has grown by 20% per year, according to numerous recently published research articles. Producers around the world, most often encouraged by governments, are trying to make healthier food choices, showing genuine concern for human health and environmental deterioration due to the use of chemical fertilizers.
They intend to increase the level of food security and create a more imperishable environment for future generations.
In Sri Lanka, the topic of organic farming has been an important topic of discussion although no proactive measures have been taken by the respective governments. The implementation of organic farming has always been postponed and postponed due to several obstacles.
For example, farmers, mainly influenced by importers, have developed a negative attitude towards processing into organic fertilizer. Other blockages were the unavailability of structured information, poor infrastructure, insufficient consumer awareness, fear of a drop in harvest, etc.
In the context of the environment, experts reveal that if every farmer converts to organic production, a huge amount of persistent and harmful chemicals can be removed from the environment every year.
Everyone agrees that the harmful substances in chemicals used on plants contaminate soils, water resources, and can remain active for many years.
In contrast, organic farming builds healthy soil which in turn helps in growing healthy food. Treating the soil with chemical fertilizers can irreparably damage the soil. Not only does organic farming produce healthy soil, it also helps tackle soil and land issues such as erosion.
High price of organic food
However, in situations where farmers have limited physical resources and limited access to modern technologies, the yields produced can sometimes be lower than those of conventional agriculture. However, with proper education and awareness programs, the use of organic fertilizers can produce a considerably higher yield. Deploying organic soil management practices can also help reduce the vulnerability of yields to extreme weather conditions, according to expert opinion.
Crops produced using organic fertilizers can fetch significantly higher prices in the local market. In addition, these certified organic products can retain a considerably high price in global markets where there are many opportunities. Retail organic food had quickly become popular in urban communities, although the price was mostly affordable for upper-middle-income customer segments. However, mass production in the future can create competition in the market and therefore most likely lower consumer prices.
If local resources are managed efficiently, organic farming can create significant socio-economic benefits. Organic products have enormous growth prospects both locally and internationally for potential producers and exporters. These are undeniable facts, but not mere anticipations, based on the current global demand for organic products. This is a great opportunity for the farming community in Sri Lanka to improve their income levels and living conditions as well.
Organic farming practices can improve soil fertility and conserve local flora and fauna. Growing a range of products helps stabilize the country’s ecosystem, reducing threats of drought and pest infestations.
With reduced exposure to chemicals, organic foods produce increased nutritional quality. The food people eat, the water resources they consume or the air they breathe must be considered in order to understand the whole picture. As for human health, organic foods produced by organic farming can keep humans healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical fertilizers.
Money saved for the farming community
President Rajapaksa has repeatedly said that his decision to ban chemical fertilizers was not rushed and that he pledged to go organic in his manifesto. He has repeated on several occasions that this decision was the result of many discussions with the best available expertise of the country and contributions from foreign specialists as well.
He intends to create a future healthy generation with food produced from organic farming. The president further assures that the staggering amount of Rs 80 billion spent on importing chemical fertilizers will be used for the welfare of the farming community.
The government has already launched a number of programs promoting the concept of organic farming. In addition to the reactivation of the “farmers ‘insurance scheme” which has not worked for several years, the Ministry of Agriculture is considering increasing the payments to the farmers’ pension scheme. The government also plans to build 105 new storage facilities to maintain paddy buffer stocks in the near future. The ceiling of the existing two million rupees for farmers’ organizations will be raised to 10 million for the renovation and rehabilitation of reservoirs and canals.
In another optimistic gesture, President Rajapaksa also asked army engineers to explore the possibility of building machines for the production of organic fertilizers in state factories. He recalls that according to specialists, the raw material for making organic fertilizers is found in rural areas in the country. Its intention is to create a new rural economy network with the help of the low income rural community.
Apparently, organic farming is growing all over the world, especially in countries with a relatively small landscape where agricultural land is degrading rapidly. Non-production factors such as health problems in agricultural areas and rapidly increasing chronic diseases are an extremely valid reason for encouraging farmers to switch to organic farming in addition to the premium price that farmers can get. on the market.
Unfortunately, however, the effort to raise awareness of the advantages of organic fertilizers vis-à-vis the use of chemical fertilizers does not yet seem sufficient. Sri Lankan farmers are keenly aware of the damaging consequences of chemicals, but are succumbing to billions of rupees spent on chemical fertilizers that overshadow the government’s seemingly lame counter-actions.
Therefore, apart from press conferences, the government propaganda apparatus needs to organize itself better to communicate with the grassroots. The battle with a multibillion dollar fertilizer industry is by no means easy, even for the government which has more legislative powers than any recent government in Sri Lanka. In order to protect the Rs 80 billion chemical fertilizer market in the country, traders will go the extra mile with their massive financial support by sponsoring political parties, bribing officials and even promoting lawlessness.
The most important factor in promoting organic farming in the country is to create a positive attitude among all stakeholders, especially farmers and consumers. No sane human being wants to consume destructive food for himself or his peers. However, if consumers demand healthy and uncontaminated food, producers will have no other option but to switch to organic farming. Therefore, organic farming must be discussed with an open mind as a serious national problem that requires extremely urgent solutions.