More than twenty years of civil war have battered the island state of Sri Lanka. Large areas in the north and northeast – home to the poorest and most vulnerable communities – remained unstable as a result, falling prey to food shortages and malnutrition.
Adding to their hardships, many communities already displaced by the conflict were severely affected by the 2004 Tsunami.
Food insecurity heightened by rising food prices
The war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam escalated in the North of Sri-Lanka in 2008, uprooting some 160,000 people from their homes.
The sharp rise in food prices that same year was compounded by high fuel, seed and fertilizer prices and a jump in overall inflation.
As a result, rural farming families in the conflict-torn areas – many of whom had been displaced repeatedly – were left even more food insecure.
The country’s long-running conflict came to an end in May 2009.
With security restored in the eastern districts, displaced farmers are now returning home and rebuilding their livelihoods with support from the government’s resettlement process. But the challenges they face are considerable.
Most farmers do not have access to even the most basic agricultural inputs, and their fields and irrigation systems are in desperate need of repair. Some areas are still littered with mines and explosive devices.
European Union Food Facility
With funds from the European Union totalling nearly €5.2 million, 20 000 families in Sri Lanka’s conflict-scarred districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee will receive support in clearing their farmland and rehabilitating small-scale irrigation tanks and channels so they can begin growing crops again.
Farmers will receive much-needed inputs including improved seed varieties for rice – an important staple – and seeds for other field crops and vegetable gardens. FAO will also provide farmers with appropriate fertilizers, fencing materials and agriculture tools.
Around 5 000 families will receive fruit trees while another 2 000 families will receive chickens in an effort to diversify production and boost families’ nutritional intake.
Funds will be used to develop and strengthen farmers’ organizations to help them improve their cooperative decision making and business and marketing skills.
Farmers will also benefit from the reinforcement of the national agricultural extension system through technical assistance and training. These trainings will focus on environmentally-friendly farming techniques, conservation agriculture, pest control, post-harvest loss reduction, food-processing, marketing and sound nutritional practices.
While 20 000 families will benefit directly, the project is also expected to improve the food security of some 100 000 rural families through the increased availability of locally-produced food.
FAO will work closely with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and community-based organizations to implement this project, which is in line with the government’s broader strategy on food and nutrition security.
Other FAO activities
FAO launched a Technical Cooperation Programme Project worth USD500 000 to support struggling farmers in planting their fields for the second monsoon season rice crop in September 2008. More than 600 metric tonnes of certified rice seed have been distributed to farmers in the conflict-affected regions of Batticaloa, Ampara, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura districts in the north and northeast. Funds have also been used to cover the cost of fertilizers and tools for rice farming.
FAO established an Emergency Rehabilitation and Coordination Unit in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami of 2004. Since then, FAO has been actively involved in agricultural and livelihoods support of those affected by the tsunami as well as of people displaced or returning from war-affected areas of the island.