- Agriculture Centre for Excellence -
About 40 farmers have received training at the Tag/Sarvodaya Agriculture Training and Development Centre, where programs are led by local agronomist Professor V. Arulnandhy. As a result of the centre’s work, increasing numbers of farmers are adopting organic farming methods. Moreover, two farmers who participated in the training joined forces with five others (including two women) to establish an association of young farmers on a two-acre farm where they will put into practice what they are learning at the centre. Their farm will receive support as a local training and development hub in their community.
Tag provided the demonstration farm with 20 Netafim Family Drip System irrigation kits, whose purchase included training from Netafim staff. Two kits were installed at the demonstration farm, where an additional eight kits are due to be installed in the coming year, and another ten kits will be distributed to farmers in the surrounding rural area. It is clear that the system is of great benefit to the farmers, as it saves both water and time and increases yields.
“…We share a similar philosophy of serving humanity … a true partnership based on mutual respect and trust.”
Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary, Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka
Drip irrigation has many benefits to local farmers:
As a result of climate change, monsoon rains come later and the dry season lasts longer in Sri Lanka. With well water needed for longer periods, the underground water level is now often lower than the level of the well-pump, so that there comes a point when even farms that have wells are unable to irrigate. By using the drip irrigation system, much less water will be used, so that the wells will provide water throughout the year.
In the absence of drip irrigation, farmers using wells spend about four hours a day irrigating a quarter of an acre with a hose. They also have to spend more time weeding. With drip irrigation farmers gain a number of hours each day that may be devoted to extending crop area and increasing yields.
With drip irrigation farmers can grow additional crops, improved crops, and receive higher yields.
All the above directly impact the farmers’ income and grant farmers more time for social and educational activities.
In October 2012, Tag’s Director of Project Development, Yossi Offer, visited the centre to assess the ongoing activity and discuss plans for the coming year. Having learned that a central challenge to the low-income farmers is the lack of a business approach to farming, while there, Yossi provided a workshop entitled “The Farm as a Business,” to foster the transformation from subsistence to business farming. Twenty-six farmers from the surrounding villages attended the workshop, which included a session describing business plans, explaining their importance and demonstrating how to create them.
Tag and Sarvodaya will continue to collaborate to expand and upgrade the Agriculture Training and Development Centre so that increasing numbers of farmers will received more advanced training.
The cultivated area will be expanded to grow more crops with the additional drip irrigation kits, a greenhouse will be constructed to help discover the best methods for growing high income generating crops, and the cattle grazing area and the number of cattle will be increased.
The ten additional FDS kits will be distributed to a variety of farms in a variety of areas. Farmers who receive them will purchase a water tank and stand to ensure that the system will work effectively and will make a commitment to share what they learn with the wider community. The centre will assist with access to funding, so that farmers will be able to acquire the equipment.
The farmers will also participate in a workshop providing training in the technical aspects of installing an FDS kit as well as in crafting a business plan. Farmers will receive ongoing technical and professional support from staff at the centre.
Income-generating activities to ensure sustainability of the centre will be promoted, to ensure that it will be able to continue to provide demonstration and training activities and to reduce dependence on external resources. Tag and Sarvodaya will develop a business plan for the centre and strengthen its technical and professional support system.