January 30, 2020
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    Climate change over the years has greatly affected the agriculture industry and farmers in Sri Lanka. Haphazard weather patterns, droughts, temperature changes and a number of other phenomena relating to climate change have left local farmers struggling negatively affecting their livelihoods. With adapting to climate change becoming top priority, a world bank funded project is now in the pipeline to assist farming communities to face new challenges brought on by climate change.

    By June this year, in a bid to uplift agriculture in the country and to make the industry resilient to climate change the Ministry of Agriculture will commence the ‘Climate-smart irrigated agriculture project’. The project will seek to improve the climate resilience of farming communities in Sri Lanka and the productivity of irrigated agriculture in selected climatically vulnerable hotspot areas in Sri Lanka.

    According to the Deputy Project Director, Dr. Priyantha Weerasinghe the basic idea is to assist farmers and uplift agriculture in areas that are most affected by climate change. Sri Lanka being in the 2nd spot on the Global Climate Vulnerability Index shows that it is a country most vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. “It is the country’s agriculture and those who are engaged in the industry that are most affected,” he said. According to Dr. Weerasinghe, the main issue faced by farmers due to climate change is the acute shortage of water. “Without water, they cannot do anything,” he said. Floods, shorter and more intensive rains along with temperature changes have also become major obstacles to farmers. “When the temperature changes it affects the growth of plants, how nutrients are absorbed and cause a host of other issues,” he pointed out. “The areas chosen for the implementation of the project were done so with these facts in mind.”

    Six provinces and eleven districts within those provinces in the dry zones of the country have been chosen to benefit from the project. According to Dr. Weerasinghe, the areas were chosen following a participatory rural assessment. “It was after a rigorous analysis of data that these areas were identified as being the most affected,” he said.

    The project focusing on irrigated agriculture is expected to mainly restore the irrigation infrastructure in these areas initially. According to Dr. Weerasinghe, the lack of funding and more focus on larger tanks have left smaller tanks and cascade systems used for centuries in disrepair. “If these are restored more water can be collected and it can also improve groundwater recharge,” he said. “We will also thereafter introduce more climate-smart options for agriculture which are available and have been tested under Sri Lankans to increase production thereby improving their livelihoods,” he said.

    Taking the project further following the restoration of the tanks and cascade systems the Ministry will also assist the farmer to establish market linkages. Prior to this, they will be advised to grow climate-resilient crops while producer groups for farmers growing a particular crop will be established. “Through this initiative, we hope to overcome one of the main challenges faced by the local industry which is to enter the international markets,” he said. The latest technology will be introduced to ensure higher product quality while producer groups will be assisted by linking them to markets. The project will also provide solutions to other common issues such as an excess in produce as seen in recent times.

    According to Dr. Weerasinghe despite the creation of mobile apps for the purpose, awareness among farmers remains low. “We will address these issues,” he assured.

    While the project was initially estimated to benefit 50,000 individuals, Dr. Weerasinghe says the numbers have now increased following the participatory rural assessment carried out. The novelty of this five-year-long project Dr. Weerasinghe said is the bottom to top-level approach being taken by the project team. “We discussed with the farmers as to what their needs are and the plan will be drawn up according to their needs and ideas.This way we can be of better service to them” he said.

    For example, according to Dr. Weerasinghe, some have suggested the restoration of tanks in areas belonging to the Department of Forests and the Department of Wildlife Conservation to stop wildlife from entering villages in search of water. “We are ready to do this under the project if these departments permit,” he said.

    While the project is to enter its initial stage, which will see a plan being drawn according to the findings of the preliminary rural assessment, Dr. Weerasinghe said field activities will likely commence in June this year.

    Explaining the importance and timeliness of the project Dr. Weerasinghe stressed that agriculture production will decrease drastically and affect the livelihoods of local farmers if they do not successfully adapt to climate change soon. “They do seem to understand that rainfall patterns, duration and new diseases along with sudden pest outbreaks are part of climate change, however, the farmers are struggling as they are unsure how to cope,” he said.

    According to Dr. Weerasinghe, agriculture communities will have to be guided and all stakeholders will have to join hands to overcome the various issues. “One project cannot do this alone,” he said. “They need to be guided. All stake-holders must join hands to educate them. They must work with all agencies and learn new things while sharing their traditional knowledge as well” he added.

     

     
     

    Mainly fair weather will prevail over most parts of the island.There is a possibility for Ground frost in some places in the Nuwara-Eliya district at the early hours of the morning.

    WEATHER FORECAST FOR SEA AREAS AROUND THE ISLAND DURING NEXT 24 HOURS
    Issued at 12.00 noon on 26 January 2020

    Condition of Rain:Mainly fair weather will prevail over the sea areas around the island.
    Winds:Winds will be North-easterly and speed will be (30-40) kmph in the sea areas around the island. Wind speed can increase up to 50 kmph at times in the sea areas extending from Matara to Pottuvil via Hambanthota.
    State of Sea:The sea areas off the coast extending from Matara to Pottuvil via Hambanthota can be fairly rough at times.

    GENERAL WEATHER FORECAST FOR NEXT 36 HOURS

    Issued at 04.00 p.m. on 25 January 2020

    Mainly fair weather will prevail over most parts the island, however there is a slight possibility for showers at a few places in Sabaragamuwa province and in Galle and Matara districts in the evening or night.Wind speed can be increased up to 40 kmph at times in northwestern province and in Hambantota district. Misty conditions can be expected at some places in Central, Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces during the morning.

    Weather Forecast for Main Cities Date : 26-Jan-2020
    City Temperature (0C) Relative Humidity (%) Weather
    Max Min Max Min
    Anuradhapura 30 22 95 70 Mainly fair
    Batticaloa 30 27 85 75 Mainly fair
    Colombo 34 24 90 55 Mainly fair
    Galle 33 24 90 55 Showers or thundershowers are likely after 2.00p.m
    Jaffna 29 21 90 70 Mainly fair
    Kandy 30 20 90 60 Mainly fair
    Nuwara-Eliya 20 9 95 70 Mainly fair
    Ratnapura 34 22 95 60 Showers or thundershowers are likely after 2.00p.m
    Trincomalee 30 26 85 70 Mainly fair
    Mannar 30 26 85 70 Mainly fair

     
     

     Consumers can expect the high vegetable prices to stabilise between February 20 and 25 as low country farmers harvest their crops, Director of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, Duminda Priyadarshana saidOn Friday (24), wholesale prices at the Pettah Market showed the effects of the torrential rains that wreaked havoc in most parts of the country over the past months. A kilo of beans was sold at Rs. 200-220, carrot Rs. 360-400, leeks Rs. 220-250, beet root Rs. 100-120 and tomato went at a price as high as Rs. 360-380.

    Meanwhile low country vegetables saw a gradual decrease with a kilo of ladies fingers going at Rs. 130-150, brinjals Rs. 90-100, capsicum Rs. 280-320 and pumpkin Rs. 90-110.Priyadarshana said this was not an unnatural phenomenon as annually the year end rains damaged crops, but this year it was worse as both low and up country vegetation were affected.

    This result can be observed on the difference of the vegetable prices this January compared to the same time period last year. On January 24, 2019 the whole sale prices at the Pettah Market per kilo of beans was Rs. 80-110, carrot Rs. 60-80, leeks Rs. 60-80, beet root Rs. 60-70 and tomato Rs. 50-70, while ladies fingers was Rs. 60-80, brinjals Rs. 75-80, capsicum Rs. 120-150 and pumpkin Rs. 15-25.

    The situation is predicted to improve with the harvest of more low country crops especially from Jaffna, Priyadarshana said.“The prices are not that bad other than for a few vegetables like carrots and beans. I can’t complain,” sad Ranjith de Silva (52), a father of three who was shopping in the Manning Market in Pettah.He added that this was also a good time for farmers because vegetables are fetching a high price now. “ It’s the only time they can make a profit,” he said

    He said this as H. W. Sanath, a 56-year-old vegetable seller at the Manning Market, looked on. Several of Sanath’s potential customers passed on after inquiring about vegetable prices. “Sales are very poor. We are actually spending our own money to come to sell vegetables instead of making profit,” he said.The situation has left many households to temporally amend their diets to cheaper alternatives. A. G. Dhammika, a 47-year-old home maker from Slave Island who is also a mother of three said that they are buying more dhal and green gram as an alternative to vegetables.

    To ease the burden on consumers the government took several measures. One such program, taken by the Ministry of Railway Services, was the sale of 10 different varieties of vegetables at a concessionary price. The program that commenced on January 02 saw many commuters at Fort and Maradana railway stations welcoming this move.In the meantime, tax on potatoes and big onions were slashed by Rs. 50 per kilo. A kilo of imported onions on Friday (24) was Rs 70-100. A kilo of local onions, however was Rs. 550.

    “The prices have already started to reduce. We are hopeful,” vegetable vendor Mahesh Kumara said. The 27-year-old has been selling vegetables with his brother for the past ten years. “This is the first time prices increased to this magnitude,” he said.

    Manager of the Meegoda Economic Centre Prashan Rajapaksha said it will take time, at least a month, for the vegetable prices to stabilise.Wholesale prices of fruits were comparatively lower than last year. On Friday a kilo of of ambul (banana) was Rs. 40-60, seeni Rs. 50-70, papaya Rs. 60-80, avocado Rs. 38-60, and woodapple Rs. 22-30. Last year during the same time a kilo of ambul was sold at Rs. 50-60, seeni Rs. 50-70, papaya Rs. 160-220, avocado Rs. 80- 110 and woodapple Rs. 15-20.

    The government is looking at ways to eliminate unnatural vegetable price hikes made by middlemen, State Minister of Internal Trade Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said.The minister explained that ‘middlemen’ buy from the farmer and sell the vegetables to the consumer at a much higher rate taking the scarcity of vegetables as an advantage.The torrential rains that swept across the country damaged crops and vegetable plots resulting in the sky-rocketed prices.

    “Now these prices are gradually coming down, other than for a few upcountry vegetables,” Minister Yapa said.President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed relevant authorities to take necessary action to ease the burden on consumers.“While doing this we also have to look at the market factor. We have to consider the effects on both the consumer and farmers,” Minister Yapa said.He predicts that the prices will stabilise in two weeks.

     
     

    Attorney General Dappula de Livera's directive to the police on the arrest of High Court Judge Gihan Pilapitiya came to receive special attention of the Constitutional Council (CC) last Friday at the Parliament Complex.It was discussed at the CC meeting that the decision made by the Attorney General is likely to undermine public confidence in the judiciary.

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