Home Gardening: For body, soul and country | Daily News


Home Gardening: For body, soul and country

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of having a sustainable country has attained the spotlight among both the policy makers and the public. The moral of the old song “Pita Deepa Desha Jayagaththa” (Oh! how we used to conquer foreign lands) sung by the veteran singer and one of the pioneer female actresses of the Noorthi era in Sri Lanka one Lakshmi Bhai keeps ringing in our minds, where she rather eerily predicts of a time where we would probably have to “wait by the shores until vessels of food and clothing we need are brought to us from foreign lands.” Owing to some short sighted economic policies followed by certain political parties over the decades after the Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka indeed would have fully met such an unfortunate fate, if not for our rural and village based economy which still stands firm owing to our local farmers and manufacturers.

Thus, the present government, understanding the significance of a sustainable country, recently started the second stage of the Saubhagya Home Gardens programme as a part of the government’s national production and economic reorientation programme. The government also initiated the second phase of the agriculture drive with an Rs.2700 million investment for seed purchases. As a part of this project, the seeds will be provided free of charge for cultivations less than half an acre and at 50 present of the cost for cultivations between half an acre and five acre.

Daily News spoke with a courageous female farmer A. Edirisinghe who has already proven that growing home gardens could be extremely productive for our local economy as their commitment can become a foundation stone for a sustainable country. Edirisinghe’s luscious home garden, located in Yakkala, adjacent to the hectic Colombo-Kandy road, is full of locally grown vegetables, a rich selection of edible green leaves that are full of nutrition along with varieties of local fruits. Edirisinghe’s home garden which spreads up to half and acre or more has appeared in numerous local television programs too as she has specialized in organic agriculture.

Edirisinghe accompanied us around her home garden showing us the splendid scenery at dawn as we visited her very own land of prosperity. “I have been cultivating this home garden now over for a decade or so. At a crisis like this food security is of utmost interest. I am actually elated to have been able to serve my area by providing fresh, organic vegetables for my villagers. I have grown ash pumpkin, cucumber, bitter gourd, okra, spinach, tomatoes, capsicum, snake gourd, wing beans (Dambala), baby bitter gourd (Thumba Karavila), brinjal, snake beans and seven varieties of local leafy greens, including Gotukola, Mukunuvenna and Kankung,” Edirisinghe proudly claimed.

Edirisinghe then accompanied us to where she has started making compost and small vegetable pots. “Now that many people have become interested in growing home gardens, they have requested me to make compost for them. Usually I make compost only for my use. My home garden is completely organic. So I have started making compost and natural liquids that could be used to get rid of pests and insects. I have also started to make small vegetable plants for people to purchase. I am proud to say that I was able to give temporary employment for two villagers to help me around my home garden as they have lost their daily income due to the curfew,” Edirisinghe pointed out.

Edirisinghe also told us that she is planning to extend her cultivation while inviting everyone to start their own home gardens. “As a stay home wife, I managed both my household work and cultivation. I am proud that I was able to feed my family, my neighbours and other people in the area during a crisis like this. I believe that all of us should work towards self-sufficiency as much as possible. If we can use what we grow for half of our consumption purposes I think it would be quite productive. While it will lessen the stress on our finances, it will also bring us health benefits and spiritual healing. So I would like to invite everyone to grow even in the tiniest plot available for them and to join hands with us in this fight against the pandemic.”

The Daily News also spoke to the Head of the Aid and Development Effectiveness at Green Movement of Sri Lanka, Development Consultant Arjuna Seneviratne, who is also a proud owner of a prosperous home garden, on the kind of economic model that Sri Lanka could follow to survive the serious economic impact it is undergoing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the time of a crisis like this, what would be the kind of economic model we can now establish in the country for a self-sufficient economy?

Arjuna Seneviratne: Our approach should not be for a self-sufficient economy. Bad choice of priorities. What we must aim for is a sustainable society and self-sufficiency is an automatic component of such an approach. For that, we must ensure sustainable production and consumption, living within are means, removing the desire for wealth display which gets us into financial debt, reduce engagement miles (that is produce locally, consume locally) and to do that, first look at sustaining and rewarding the small scale agriculture sector and increase the use of sustainable energy generated at the level of households. Additionally, look to utilizing technology optimally for increasing efficiency and finally, prevent wheeler dealers and corrupt local politicians trying to stifle local production for them to get commissions.

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