FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Published on November 3, 2011   ·   No Comments

MAKING THE GREEN ARMY ATTRACTIVE

HOW TO ATTRACT SRI LANKAN YOUTH TO JOIN THE GREEN ARMY

THE RATIONALE:

That Sri Lanka has an island population based on a unique culture of the school, the temple and the tank cannot be forgotten. There was a time when popular politics demanded jobs for the youth and the then leaders took them along the road to garment factories located in every corner of the country. It is a crying shame to continue to confine our youth to these sweat shops where they slave in confined areas, and take home a pittance while the factory owner, the middle man and the customer reaps the benefits of cheap labour.

With a 7 billion global population and 20 million in Sri Lanka, the demand for food cannot be overlooked. Grains, fruit, vegetables and greens are in short supply the world over. In a country of over three thousand tanks we have the undeniable capacity for re-structuring our glorious image of being the “granary of the east” In the past we have taken pride in the fact that we are a nation of farmers. What has happened to this image?

AGRICULTURE & ECOLOGY

This is not a call to return to the span cloth and the slash and burn era. A growing population has three basic needs.  Education, employment and food. The machinery of free education is in place but in danger of being destroyed. Education must be more relevant to our times and suited to our own needs rather than based on western concepts. While the need to fall in line with global concepts is recognized we must also give adequate opportunities for the vast majority of our people to develop our own lifestyle. That so many should go out into domestic service in other countries is a crying shame although they bring in the dollars to uphold our shrinking dollar income.

What then should be our priorities if we are to bring back the glory of the past?

  • Boost the image of agriculture and make it the most attractive pursuit for the Sri Lankan who is proud of being Sri Lankan by enlisting the political will of the country to achieve this goal.
  • Re-introduce  agriculture into our school curriculum from grade one. Restricting this to book knowledge must be avoided.  Equal emphasis being placed on ecological principles while adopting methods of food production.
  • Develop academies for raising agriculture into a technologically and scientifically upgraded pursuit. ( Farm schools established in every district to obtain Diplomas)
  • Gannoruwa to become a hive of activity for Research and Development We have a complex of huge buildings but the people within are not motivated.
  • Set up a contest for the Farmer King and Queen on an annual basis for every district and one for the island.

This does not mean that the other professions like medicine, engineering , the law etc are condemned to a second or third place. This is a plea to upgrade the pursuit of agriculture to equal status. Let us look into some of these areas a little more closely.

 

BOOSTING THE IMAGE OF AGRICULTURE AS A PROFESSION- CREATION OF NEW JOBS

When this country was in danger of a terrorist invasion, our leaders recruited hundreds of men and women to join the army and the response was visible. If we are to save ourselves from the tentacles of the global economy we now need to build a green army. Where we grow local and eat local and of course export the excess.  Must we continue to go to the west with the begging bowl?  Admittedly,there must be some glamour in this calling if we are to attract the youth.

Young people must be given a chance to aspire to joining the Green Army. They have to be trained in the science and technology of modern agriculture. They have to be assured of a job at the end of their training. The soldiers in the army at present could be channeled to lead the way. The military should have its own Academy of Agriculture to train the present soldiers to be Green Soldiers. Thereafter they will show the way forward to other young people. Our soldiers should not only be trained to safeguard our sovereignty but also be productive in times of peace.

Under this new approach, there will be a range of employment from the point of preparing the earth to taking the product to the table. Although machines will be introduced to minimize the sweat and time consuming jobs, scientific approaches will require people with specialized skills. We envision the creation of jobs to be multiplied through this process of change.

AGRICULTURE IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

From the early years, a child has to be introduced to the miracle of a growing seed. Whether he or she comes from a slum, a flat or house with one perch of land around it, a flower pot with some earth is possible even fro the most restricted. The recreational value and the joy of witnessing growth must be introduced at an early age. The hours spent before a TV or any other technologically driven gadget can be reduced to a healthier level if the habit is inculcated along with toilet training. This is one way of making agriculture a part of living. It can give the individual sunshine and exercise and uplift his levels of physical wellbeing.

As the years go by the school curriculum should make” reading, riting, rithmetic and  riculture “ compulsory. This would appear to be an absolute must for our culture and way of life. We can become a proud nation of farmers.

Climate change and global warming is a subject that has come to stay. Agriculture must be perceived within the confines of the principles of ecology. Western domination has given way to our hill country being deforested and our tank systems being neglected by growing tea. The tragedy is that our lowlands are also being deforested for growing tea. The dangers of de-forestration have been witnessed in land slides and flash floods. While we need to recognize that agriculture demands de-forestration, we should  also remind ourselves that respect for ecological principles will enable agriculture and ecology to co-exist.  This is why a farmer has now to be treated as a professional with in-depth knowledge of protecting the environment while earning a healthy living. Above all the call to be a farmer has to be raised to a level which makes farming an honorable pursuit on par with every other noble profession.

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