Monday, December 11, 2023

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FAO, Agriculture Department, and Mahaweli Authority Launch Farmer Field Schools to Revolutionize Paddy Farming in Sri Lanka

In collaboration with the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently initiated a groundbreaking Farmer Field Schools Programme in Sri Lanka. This initiative targets 6,000 smallholder paddy farmers in key rice-growing districts—Ampara, Badulla, Hambantota, and Polonnaruwa—to impart sustainable paddy cultivation techniques.

The core focus of the programme is training these farmers in the Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM) approach, empowering them to optimize fertilizer, water, and other inputs in their cultivation practices. By embracing IPNM and adopting more efficient fertilizer usage, these farmers can reduce expenses, enhance productivity, and fortify their resilience against future challenges.

Traditionally, many Sri Lankan paddy farmers have relied on outdated methods, often overusing recommended fertilizers without understanding their fields’ specific nutrient requirements.

The Farmer Field School programme is designed to enable soil testing and promote judicious fertilizer utilization via IPNM strategies. It emphasizes soil management, composting, and biochar production. Additionally, the programme advocates for sound agronomic practices encompassing the use of high-quality seeds, proper land preparation, efficient water management, the parachute method for seed broadcasting, and effective pest, weed, and disease management—all integral facets of IPNM.

This comprehensive initiative operates under the ‘RiceUP’ project, an innovative FAO-led endeavor supported by a Euro four million EU fund. The project addresses Sri Lanka’s food security system vulnerability by safeguarding smallholder farmers’ livelihoods through the judicious use of fertilizers and the enhancement of quality paddy seed production.

The recent launch of Farmer Field Schools follows the training of 289 Agriculture Extension Officers in IPNM practices. These officers, equipped with essential skills and knowledge, will guide and collaborate with the selected farmers, tailoring exercises to suit local conditions.

Through the promotion of sustainable farming practices, such as efficient fertilizer usage and superior seed quality, RiceUP aims to elevate productivity, fortify food security, and bolster livelihoods within Sri Lanka’s paddy farming sector. FAO, in partnership with various stakeholders, remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability and resilience of Sri Lanka’s agriculture.

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