the drive to Batticaloa

Posted Thursday December 11, 2014 by Hazel Durbridge

On Wednesday I travelled over 10 hours to get to Batticaloa.

The journey was the journey – very long – going through very lush landscape as we got higher up. I saw an elephant by the side of the road and lots of monkeys, then as we descended it became more arid in proportion to becoming more flat.

My VSO guardians ate a lot. I can’t imagine they eat that amount all the time. I think this was a fill the belly moment courtesy of DFID, but we stopped for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was curry and rice every time which is pretty much 3 curries and a mountain of rice. Munch, munch, munch. I ate it.

My house is fine. It has 3 bedrooms, a large sitting /eating area, kitchen and bathroom. It’s in a compound with the landlady’s house with a garden full of flowers and a view of the lagoon over the wall. There are ceiling fans in most rooms. It’s got the standard faults – dodgy wiring, plaster erupting because of certain moulds/growths you get in tropical climates, ugly, uncomfortable very basic furniture, but it has a functioning bathroom and water on tap. And Upali, the driver, who is a lovely man, ex-navy, hence think knots, fixed up my hammock. I may never see him again as by the time I next see the VSO office they will have moved and many more been made redundant as part of the down-sizing process. I can’t nip to the local office at the week-end as I did in Cameroon. I am on my own for the next 3-6 months. There is no space for wussy moments.

 

Agriculture

Batticaloa district is primarily an agricultural area with scope for expanded development. There are about 61,321 ha (25.50% of total land area) of paddy land in the district. The farmers in the district are engaged in the cultivation of paddy, other field crops, vegetables, fruit crops and perennial crops. The district falls under the dry zone and Agro-Ecological Region of DL1.

Rice is one of the least profitable arable crops. The Ministry of Agriculture warns that as a result of global trends in rice consumption and production, Sri Lanka will be placed under increasing pressure to produce cheaper and higher quality rice in the coming years. (http.agridept.gov.lk/index.php/en/crop-recommendations/808). Without improvements in productivity and reductions in cost, the profitability of paddy cultivation is likely to deteriorate rather than improve. (source: Ampara District Development Plan 2012)

Paddy cultivation: Farmers engaged in paddy cultivation produce a considerable quantity of paddy in the fertile land. But recently the profitability of paddy cultivation has been decreasing, because of the price increase for inputs, lower prices for paddy(products), reduced yields, climate change and natural disasters.

Table 1.1: Contribution of GDP of Agriculture sector in Batticaloa District

Production of rice in Maha 193,274mt
Production of rice in Yala 74,563mt
Total production 267,837mt
Total production (in kgms) 267,833,000kg x Rs 35.00
GDP for paddy Rs 9,374,155,000.00 – 9 billion

Source: District Director of Agriculture Office 2013

 

Table 1.2: Average yield and yield gap (MT/Ha) under different cultivation practices (2011/12 Maha and Yala)

Type of cultivation practices Potential Actual Gap
Maha Yala Maha Yala Maha Yala
Major Irrigation 10.0 10.0 4.5 4.93 5.5 5.07
Minor irrigation 8.0 8.0 4.0 4.93 4.0 3.07
Rain fed 6.0 6.0 3.7 2.3 2.3

Source: EDP 2012 – 2016 VOL III – Agriculture Development

 

Opinion is divided on whether the soil is too sandy/unproductive for paddy cultivation. The farmers need to use higher technology and a higher proportion of organic matter and less chemical fertiliser. Many of the fields are sloping and need to be regularly levelled, but farmers can not afford the cost of this.

Seeds

Good quality seeds is the critical input for productivity to ensure the maximum output and to minimise cost. There is one government seed farm at Kardiyanaru. All through the war years this was closed and there was no production. Consequently it is taking time to rebuild production.

The seed certification service is moving back to Kardiyanaru shortly , but there is no water supply or fencing there. They also have no IT equipment to be able to deliver training programmes to the seed farmers effectively.

Other field crop cultivation

Highland crops and home gardens have a wide spread distribution throughout the District comprising of 49,339 Hectares of total cultivable area. According to the statistics in Maha (2011/12) 3,893 Ha of land was planned to be utilized.

According to the statistics only 7% of high land is utilized for cultivation.

Vegetable cultivation: The vegetable production of the District is not able to fulfil the total requirements of the local population. There is potential to increase production.

Cash crop cultivation

Coconut, cashew and palmyrah are all identified as important cash crops in the District.

Home gardens are playing an increasingly important role in agricultural production. Phase III of the Divi Neguma programme aims to create one million domestic agriculture units nationally so as to increase vegetable and fruit production, boost family nutrition and reduce living costs. (source: Ampara District Development Plan 2012)

Dragon Fruit is seen as an ideal crop for home gardens as it has a high market value. There is currently a model garden at Palugaman.

Batticaloa District Plan DRAFT 2013

 

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