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Summary of SRI in Sri Lanka

In January 2000, Joeli Barison, a Cornell graduate student who had done undergraduate SRI research at University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, traveled to Sri Lanka to promote SRI; his ideas were taken up by Dr. Gamini Batuwitage, at the time Senior Assistant Secretary (later Additional Secretary) of Agriculture, and The Hon. Salinda Dissanayake, Deputy Minister of Agriculture (later Minister of Lands). H. M. Premaratna, an organic farmer who began using SRI in 2000 after reading about it in newspaper article by Batuwitage, reported getting 10-15 t/ha with SRI methods in early trials. For the next few years, SRI was considered controversial in government circles, being accepted by some agencies and questioned by others. Farmer innovation expanded, with a 2001 evaluation by farmers in the Namal Oya irrigation scheme reporting SRI yields averaging 8.5 t/ha, whereas 'modern' methods using fertilizer averaged 4.7 t/ha and traditional farmer practice yielded 2.9 t/ha. By 2002, H. M. Premaratna had trained over 4,000 farmers in SRI methods at his own expense at the Nature Farming Center on his farm (1.4 ha) at Mellawalana.

In a 2003 International Water Management Institute (IWMI) study, 50% of SRI users showed an increase in yield over comparable non-SRI farmers, with water productivity increased by 90%, cost of production reduced by 17-27% (111-209% if unpaid family labor was used), and profitability per hectare increased by 83-206%. While some consider SRI to require more effort, farmers in several areas have developed labor-saving weeders and crop management innovations. During 2007, Oxfam/Australia published on-farm research with farmers in four districts, comparing the broadcasting method of crop establishment with conventional transplanting and with SRI. Yields averaged yield 3.96 t/ha with the first method, 4.7 t/ha with the second, and 5.7 t/ha with SRI.

In March 2008, an SRI Network in Sri Lanka (SRIN) was formed with institutional members including two government agencies and seven NGOs, national and international. Six district-wise SRI networks were set up. After positive results, Mercy Corps reported plans to expand from 15 to 160 farmers during 2009. The Gemidiriya Foundation included SRI in the 2010 phase of its Village Upliftment (Gama Neguma) program for poverty reduction in 1000+ villages in Sri Lanka. During 2011-2012, Oxfam Australia expanded its support for SRI, working with 400+ farmers in conjunction with partner NGOs. SRIN, which had three network meetings during 2011, expanded their network, beginning with several events involving farmers, government officials, and NGOs. The SRI Network-Sri Lanka in collaboration with Oxfam Australia and Rajarata University of Sri Lanka launched a jointly-produced research report on August 23, 2013, at the Ministry of Agriculture. The symposium, addressed by two Cabinet Ministers -- the Hon. Thissa Witharana, Minister for Science and Technology, and the Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abewardena, Minister of Agriculture -- was attended by nearly 100 stakeholders. During 2014, Sri Lanka's progress on innovative weeder design was showcased at several events in Thailand. In 2015, the publication entitled Location specific adoption of System of Rice Intensification - Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka, was launched at an event on environmental friendly paddy farming at Rajarata University.

Progress and Activities

2015 Updates
2014
2013 Updates
  • arrow The SRI Network Launches Research Report at Symposium held at Ministry of Agriculture

    [September 10] The SRI Network-Sri Lanka in collaboration with Oxfam Australia and Rajarata University of Sri Lanka launched a jointly produced research report on August 23 at the Ministry of Agriculture. The symposium, addressed by two Cabinet Ministers -- the Hon. Thissa Witharana, Minister for Science and Technology, and the Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abewardena, Minister of Agriculture -- was attended by 90 representatives of various organizations, policy makers, implementers, academics and civil society activists from different parts of the country. SRI farmers and representatives from the SRI Network participated from different parts of the country (Anuradapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Kurunegala, Kegalle, Gampaha, Kaluthara). The objective of bringing policy makers, researchers and activists for the one form was to find a common way forward.

    The research report, which provides scientific analysis of SRI, was launched by Dr. Sanjeewanie Ginigaddara from Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, delivering it to the two Ministers and to Dr. Gamini Batuwitage. The book was dedicated to Dr. Batuwitage who has made a great contribution for developing SRI in Sri Lanka from the time that it was introduced in 2000. He noted that "This is a time that policy makers, implementers, researchers and activists should come together and work together to establish eco-friendly paddy farming culture in the country." Dr. Batuwitage showed that although the economic analysis has very critically looked at the labor-intensiveness, the research has missed some very crucial economic analysis like the real value and costs of fertilizer subsidy, economic analysis on health aspects, economic aspects of environment impact, etc. Mathugama Seneviruwan highlighted that the research does not properly looked at the context in which SRI has been developing during the past few years under the extreme discouragement of the Department of Agriculture (DOA). SRI was progressing under circumstances where the DOA banned it and openly criticized it as a wrong method, and the extension service was instructed through a circular not to allow its practice in any area in the country. Although the DOA rejected it, however, a few organizations and many dedicated farmers have dared to do it, and today SRI has been identified as an potential option for dealing with the growing crisis.

  • arrowSRI attracts attention from top government officials

    Seventy-four acres of paddy lands located near to the National Parliament building were leased out by the Government of Sri Lanka to 90 SRI farmers for cultivation of traditional rice varieties without using chemical inputs, according to SRI methods. The President of Sri Lanka advised the Hon. Salinda Dissanayake, now the Minister for Indigenous Medicine and formerly Deputy Minister of Agriculture, to launch this program recognizing the need of reducing excessive chemical input use and appreciating the potential of SRI as a more productive approach to paddy cultivation. Minister Dissanayake was himself a pioneer in SRI introduction in Sri Lanka, having himself begun farming with SRI methods in 2000-2001.

    Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary to the Ministries of Urban Development and Defense, under whose charge the cultivation area falls, took the lead in setting up the demonstration with Minister Dissanayake with the blessings of the Maha Sangha, the high council of Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka, to mobilize the resources required for testing the growing traditional rice varieties on this large paddy tract, attaching high priority and importance to the task.

    The Sri Lanka SRI Network (SSRIN) is providing technical inputs for this demonstration. Members of the country’s Civil Defense Force volunteered to assist the farmers in the heavy work of constructing irrigation and drainage structures and in land preparation, pledging continued support throughout the season on a voluntary basis. The participating farmers are committed to this experiment, adapting SRI to the conditions of this vast paddy tract with the hope of receiving the blessings from the top political level for an expanded effort nationwide. The national television Rupavahini gave coverage of the launching of the demonstration This is an unusual combination of farmer efforts with NGO backstopping, having support from top levels of government and given blessings from the Buddhist clergy. Excessive use of agrochemicals has become an economic problem for many farmers, exacerbated by serious health issues for many rural households.

2011-2012
  • arrowFlood Resistance in SRI Paddy Fields Generates Interest in Sri Lanka

    Even though SRI methods have been promoted over a number of years in Sri Lanka by Oxfam Australia, adoption has not been rapid. According to recent Oxfam Australia reports, however, interest in SRI was renewed during 2010/2011 due to 1) farmers' experiences with flood-resistance by rice grown in the SRI paddies and 2) research in Sri Lanka linking arsenic-related health problems to agricultural chemicals used in rice production. (See Oxfam report for details). Oxfam is now promoting SRI with 400+ farmers in Sri Lanka.

    Farmers in the north central region noticed that the paddy fields under SRI cultivation had not suffered as severely during recurring floods as per the experience in the northeast. A video about these farmers' experiences and subsequent seminar involving farmers, researchers, NGOs and government officials, resulted in training of extension officers, a home gardening / SRI program in the Thambuttegama DS division, training of 300 Community Health Workers and voluntary leader-farmers working in 27 DS divisions in Anuradhapura district, and plans for the agriculture faculty of Rajarata University to begin conducting SRI research.

    Research carried out by Rajarata and Kalaniya Universities in Anuradapura district revealed presence of arsenic in Sri Lankan rice which they believe to be caused by heavy agricultural chemical use and linked the high level of chronic kidney disease there. As a result, interest has been generated in different sectors who are working with the farmers in environment-friendly paddy farming methods such as SRI.

  • Rizana in her SRI field The SRI Network (SRIN), which was established in 2008, continues to expand its membership; SRIN undertook three meetings were during 2011 that were focused on regional establishment of demonstrations and long-term partnerships.

  • Heenamenike in her SRI fieldAs SRI generates more positive results, SRI network partners have been featured in newspaper articles, radio broadcasts and telecasts. Chaminda Fernando at Oxfam Australia in Sri Lanka forwarded us several of these stories. Mohommed Ismail Rizana (at right), a woman farmer in Ampara District, achieved almost 80 bushels of rice with organic SRI methods, a 45% increase over average rice yields in the area. This was demonstrated in a public crop-cut survey conducted by the Department of Agriculture with the participation of several government officials. R. M. Heenmenike, who began working with SRI in 2008 through the community-based organization RGNK, originally tried SRI to save water. After her success in adopting organic SRI methods, she has become a volunteer SRI trainer and has been featured in newspaper articles and a video.

  • arrow Integrated Program on SRI Method Undertaken by the SRI Network

    Three days of interrelated programs on SRI involving farmers, government officials, and NGO staff, were carried out by the SRI Network from January 31 through February 2, 2011. The objective was to advocate to the government and to build the capacities of the related organizations and farmers, focusing on the increase in number of farmers for the Yala season with the support of the government extension service and other organizations while raising awareness of the farmers in the area. The three programs included:

    1. TOT  for the selected farmers from different organizations
    2. Regional seminar on SRI and exposure visit to the practicing farmers
    3. Practical training on SRI focusing on Yala season for the interested people from the previous day’s program

    The regional seminar took place at the Human Development Resource Centre, Thelhiriyawa, Eppawala, while the TOT and practical trainings took place at the Rajarata Gamishakthi Nirmana Kaweaya (RGNK) in Thambuttegama. All three trainings included a field component. (See program plans for more information.)

1999-2010 - see Sri Lanka activity archives

Reports and Articles

(in chronological order)
General Articles and Reports
Articles in the press

Research and Conference Papers

(in chronological order)
Research and Journal Articles
Conference Papers

Practical Information

Farmer Innovations

  • Ariyatne Weeder in Sri Lanka Farmers Develop Weeders and Other Crop Innovations

    Mr. Ariyatne Subasinghe, from Hingurakgoda in Northwest Sri Lanka, has developed a labor-saving method for crop establishment, and has also designed and built a motorized weeder (shown at right) that enables him to weed 5 acres (2 ha) in one day. He is cultivating 5 acres (2 ha) with SRI methods and finds it difficult to do as many weedings as recommended for such an area. So he has developed this weeder, with a Chinese motor, that he can make for about $750, and which he considers a cost-effective innovation given the yields he can get with SRI methods. The labor-saving method for crop establishment he also developed is based on broadcasting germinated seed and thinning them with he weeder later on. (Click here for details).

  • H. M. Premaratna in Sri Lanka who has been pioneering SRI innovations and training in that country since 1999 has developed a weeder design in 2002 that greatly reduces the time needed to do a soil-aerating, weed-removing operation. Depending on the soil, its water status, amount of weed growth, etc., weeding an acre can take 5-10 days. The new weeder Premaratna says can reduce this to 1-2 days. (Click on image to see enlargement.) Premaratna's weeder This is because the "teeth" of the new weeder, similar to the cono-weeder used in South India, do not get clogged with mud that needs to be removed, and because this weeder is always pushed forward -- not pushed and pulled, forward and backward, as done for removing weeds and aerating the soil with most hand weeders previously manufactured.

Videos

Presentations (PowerPoint)

Photo Archive

  • The Sri Lanka Photo Collection contains pictures obtained from Norman Uphoff and others. They are shown above as a slideshow in the summary section. If you do not have a recent version of Flash installed, click here to see individual photos which are made available on Picasaweb. (see also SRI photo collection for all countries).

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