FAO in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka at a glance

©EU/Lekha Edirisinghe

Sri Lanka’s 26-year conflict – which uprooted hundreds of thousands of people, often more than once – ended in 2009. The hardest hit areas were the northern and eastern provinces, where most people earn a living from agriculture. Most displaced families have returned to their places of origin, but the conflict wiped out their homes and assets. Many lost family members, and about 15 percent of the households are now headed by women. People began returning in late 2009. Since then, FAO has assisted families to move from food aid to food production in the shortest time possible, helping them to replenish their assets and rebuild their livelihoods.

Kick-starting agricultural production

Vast areas of farmland, orchards and essential infrastructure were abandoned and/or damaged during Sri Lanka’s long-running conflict. FAO has supported the clearing of farmland and the rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation systems and agricultural wells. Likewise, it has provided families with seeds to grow rice, vegetable gardens and other field crops as well as fruit trees, tools and water pumps. FAO has also been training farmers on environmentally-friendly farming techniques, like conservation agriculture, as well as pest control and reducing post-harvest losses. This has evolved into a farmer field school programme and extension support for agribusiness development.

Re-establishing livestock production

At the end of the conflict, some 50 000 abandoned cattle roamed the north in large herds. FAO worked with the Government to organize the initial cattle round-up and repatriation of animals to returning families. FAO has provided around 400 000 month-old chicks to families to boost egg production, with priority given to women-headed households. Since 2011, FAO has distributed thousands of goats and cattle to increase household milk production. Veterinary support services have been established and artificial insemination services strengthened, while training and marketing support are being provided as milk production steadily increases in the north.

Transition to development

FAO is providing support to recent returnees – farmers and fishers – so they can feed themselves and their families. Efforts are being made to strengthen local farmer and fisher organizations in order to improve income levels and contribute to local economic development. FAO is working to rehabilitate irrigation tanks and supports value addition and market chain development for farmers. In addition, FAO is working with four other United Nations agencies on a new programme for integrated development with conflict-impacted communities in seven districts through 2017.