Cargills inspires youth towards agriculture | Daily News


Cargills inspires youth towards agriculture

Expelling the fears that Sri Lankan agriculture will be deprived of young blood and it will face server labour shortage in the near future, more youth are engaging towards agriculture which is technology based due to untiring efforts taken by Cargills (Ceylon) PLC under “Sarubima “ program.

Cargills (Ceylon), which operates Sri Lanka’s biggest supermarket chain, is contributing towards reducing the cost of living, enhancing youth skills and bridging regional disparity through ‘Sarubima Agriculture Modernisation’ project.

“The first phase of the agriculture modernization project concluded successfully with farmers experiencing higher yields with lower input requirements in their first cultivation. We are now planning for the second phase of the project,” a company official said.

The project seeks to address challenges to growth of agriculture in Sri Lanka, including high costs of production, low yields, volatile climatic conditions, dwindling interest of youth in agriculture, overuse of agro-chemicals, and limited export potential of local produce.

Cargills group operates an extensive food and agriculture supply chain in Sri Lanka, buying vegetables and fruits from a network of over 10,000 farmers, through 10 collection centers and sent to its chain of super markets.

With this, we extend knowledge and expertise to farmers on the latest agricultural methods and transportation while educating them on how to reduce wastage. We also recognize farmers who excel with awards. Since our intention is to uplift not only farmers, but their families and communities, we reach out to their children too. We select children who display academic proficiency at Grade Five Scholarship, G.C.E. Advanced Level, Universities and vocational trainings and offer them scholarships to encourage them to study further, he said.

Sarubima’s ‘Save our Soil Program’ recognizes fruit and vegetable farmers and dairy famers from the local communities for their contribution to agriculture and sustainable agriculture practices. It has created 80 model farms in Thambuthegama, Thanamanvila, and Norochcholai and introduced improved, “climate-smart” agricultural practices for 20 different crop varieties.

In addition to special inputs, eight farmers and five extension officers were given the opportunity to receive first-hand exposure to a successful agriculture modernization program, through a visit to high-tech farms and technical parks in India.

Cargills have helped Sri Lankan farmers get higher yields with lower input requirements in a pilot project with support from Jain Irrigation Systems of India.

“We worked with Jain Irrigation Systems of India to introduce proven practices from India that have been successful in reducing manpower and agri-inputs usage,” he said.

Jain bills itself as the second largest micro-irrigation company in the world, making a range of precision-irrigation products and also providing services from soil survey, engineering design to agronomic support. As the first phase of the program, 80 small-scale farmers were selected from three collection centres in different ecological zones. In partnership with Jain Irrigation, we provided overseas training and field visits to some of these farmers as seeing is believing. A team comprising experts from Jain Irrigation and Cargills thereafter worked with the farmers to install drip and sprinkler irrigation equipment and supported them with training nd monitoring during the cultivation period, he said.

The investment cost to install the irrigation systems was shared between the Cargills Sarubima fund and the farmer.

Established by Cargills in 2008 at Thanamalwila, the Cargills Sarubima Fund aims to support the farming community for their untiring efforts towards growing our country’s economy. For every kilogram of fruit and vegetables as well as every litre of milk we source from local farmers, it adds 50 cents to the Fund. Since the company source 120,000 kilograms of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as 120,000 litres of milk every day, this money has now developed into a substantial amount and continues to be utilized for the empowerment of local farming communities. Thambuththegama is a thriving rural area brimming with various kinds of agriculture and, now, being further opened up with the latest in agri-business ventures by Cargills, one of the country’s oldest conglomerates and among the most successful ventured, farmers in the Thambuththegama area, benefitting from the Cargills ‘Sarubima Agriculture Modernisation’ project .

Traditional agricultural farming will be phased out with the introduction of drip irrigation and fertigation which have taken off the ground under the Cargills Sarubima Agriculture Moderantation project which commenced cultivation of around 20 low country crops among 80 farmers in Thambuthtegama in March last year.

Cargills organized a farm visit to Thambuttegama area where the farmers who benefitted from the program had the opportunity to share their experience with the Sunday Observer Business .

“We benefited from modern agricultural practices such as drip irrigation and fertigation adopted by farmers who now make a better living in a productive and cost effective way,” Sunil Abeysekera echoing the same words as Wimal dayaratne said. Bringing new hope to local agriculture industry, we met a modern farmer Nalin Wijeratne who is engaging in farming as a living infusing modern technology and practices for cost effective and convenient due to the use of a new farming model.

“We are happy to practice the knowledge and input given by Cargills in reaching better yields and higher incomes. The farmers who are connected to Sarubima program benefit immensely not only economically, but socially as well. We take pride in being farmers and have deployed modern agriculture practices in going forward, ‘ he said.

The use of nets and new irrigation and fertilisation methods have drastically reduced both pre and post-harvest losses by almost 100 percent. The pre and post-harvest losses are so minimal that most farmers today feel it is negligible. This is the added value in business knowledge that big corporates bring with them. Drip irrigation and fertigation were introduced to the Thambuththegama farmers following an ‘exposure visit’ conducted by Cargills last year to India through which the farmers were introduced to modern farming technology adopted by farmers in India.

Drip irrigation is used effectively in Israel and many developed countries for efficient water management and high yield returns. The farming technology under the Cargills Sarubima Agriculture Modernisation project in Thambuththegama has also helped farmers to improve the quality of the produce. Farmers are now able to go beyond shores to the global export market with their Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. Farmers said the use of nets has helped minimise damage to crops by pests. Plastic mulch is a product used to suppress weeds and conserve water in crop production and landscaping. Mulches also act as a barrier to keep methyl bromide, a powerful fumigant, and ozone depleted in the soil. Crops grow through slits or holes in the thin plastic sheeting. Plastic mulch is often used with drip irrigation. Research has been done using different colours to affect crop growth.

Farmers who have adopted drip irrigation said the application of weedicides has dropped by around 70 percent as a result of GAP which has also helped reduce pre and post-harvest losses to around 20 percent from around 35 to 40 percent.

Famers also said they want to increase the supply under GAP and obtain a better price in the future. They have also seen the interest shown by their children and the youth in the area to take up to agriculture under GAP which has not only made agricultural farming attractive but also lucrative. GAP and GHP are voluntary audits which verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored as safely as possible to minimise risks of microbial food safety hazards. The Sri Lanka GAP is issued by the Audit Department of the Agriculture Department and is monitored by the Agri Business Division of the Agriculture Department. Cargills Sarubima has won the Best Sustainability Project Award presented by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and the Best Corporate Citizen Award and has received numerous forms of recognition for its strong commitment to society.

Empowering farmers is a commitment that embodies the heart and soul of Cargills and stems from the commitment to bridging regional disparity. Providing nutrition to the people makes the company direct partners of the thousands of farmers across Sri Lanka. Each year, Cargills works directly with hundreds of thousands of farmers to help increase their productivity, thereby helping to raise their standard of living and access to quality raw materials. It’s activities include training farmers on best practices in crop and animal agriculture, providing credit, inputs, transport and infrastructure for farmers and cooperatives, establishing fair and transparent pricing policies and increasing access to markets.

Cargills sustainability strategy is making social responsibility an integral part of everything it does. It is a Company with wide commitment that channels expertise and knowledge to create sustainable value for every direct and indirect stakeholder it touches. The farmer modernization program has given the technology and inputs for the local farmers to reach international standards and an opening to the export market. It is a big step towards sustaining agriculture to ensure food safety and contributing for an enhanced national economy.

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