Our proud boast of being the Granary of the East is a far cry today but we have hope as we still have the same fertile land that can be tilled-this time after having consumed the last dregs of humiliation in having been reduced to the begging bowl from the Grand Granary-and also as we have the same mold of people who can be made to put their hands to the plough with proper guidance on techniques, modern equipment and a youth friendly rural society-this time guided private entrepreneurs and not by our chair-warming and lethargic ‘public servants’
this can be achieved with enticing invitations to local and foreign investors on the basis of Public Private Partnerships-for tilling of the land.
On accepting aid from capitalist/communist countries It is apt to touch on this much hackneyed subject which is common knowledge to the average reader-with capitalism caricatured as the blackest devil-although several of the communist countries of the bygone era have professed capitalism-unfortunately not very willingly admitted by our local variety-for known/unknown reasons: this concept must be bourn in mind when we consider offers of help from capitalist countries-to revamp the rural-on a disciplined basis
land usage over several periods of invasions to the present day have had changes and both the land and its people suffered: from the remembered past the Rajakariya system prevailed most of the time during which period we may have earned the epithet-granary of the east.
After the invasions land continued to be managed by the mercantile system of companies especially in cases of tea rubber and coconut; this system prevailed till independence-at which time our country was termed prosperous-until it changed with the Land Reforms Commission and the lands managed by the state with consequent heavy losses: there were intermittent changes of management with sparse attention given to tilling of land for food crops like paddy-so much so that ensuing generations of tillers were averse taking to tilling the land.
Moreover, tilling of land for paddy, was a traditional preserve of a few-having an aura of mystical beliefs surrounding it: this social aspect may not have met with the rigid demands of the vibrant mercantile sector-which at that time would have preferred to fish in peace without muddying the waters!
Due to this negligence the rural youth drifted away from tilling land on the belief that the pasture is greener on the other side of the fence-
It can be said that the youth were enamored with the luster they imagined of the city dwelling-resulting in their having to live in makeshift chum merry spaces in the city and this was repugnant to the psyche of rural youth used to open living with sunshine rain and flowing rivers.
Due to the tug-o-war in politics, various regimes have scuttled agricultural development in rural parts of the country-very much to the detriment of economic development
Today we face a dismal situation of famine and malnutrition; gone are the frivolous days of political fisticuffs and also taking busloads of people to our ancient cities to sing praises to our ancient wisdom and prowess of those that did wonders-instead, facing this grave crisis bravely is a herculean task-leaving behind politicking philosophizing and day dreaming to avoid the almost cruel and sad famine and malnutrition deaths
Pursue essentials such as debt restructuring-bridge financing-disciplining
governance and politics to expedite Prime International Aid Givers so as to implement basic infrastructure to attract PPP’s
In a prioritized basis revamp, the rural with that same luster to which youth were attracted to the city and minimize the vagaries they have to face in tilling land such as;
-mechanized agricultural equipment
-constructing cold storage plants to face vagaries of weather
-cutting off the middle man to maintain a fair price for products
-introduce IT-WIFI shops and banks for swift communication and banking
-construct halls for entertainment-musicals-dance floors, oriental and otherwise-gymnasiums and swimming pools-if needed
-open institutions to accommodate universities both foreign and local and for learning of English compulsorily for IT and foreign communication and not for Just social prestige
-hold important seminars etcetera with easy access to rural youth
These, are just a few among several other attractions to entice local and foreign investors to invest on the basis of Private Public Partnership-PPP in order to retain rural youth, presently in a crisis ridden transitional stage in their rural homes
nothing seems impossible for the Sri Lankans who compacted a thirty-year plan for Mahaweli to a five-year period; another example being the recent building of a prefabricated hospice in 72 hours by our motivated forces.
It is very encouraging to see the army taking over tilling of vast tacks of fallow land for tilling and let this be a nucleus for PPP’s to be set up deploying youth-now active with aragalayhas!
Oscar E V Fernando
June 2022Grow More Food