Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage attributed the birth of children with the blue babies syndrome and over 30 children being born every month with vision and eye problems, to the excessive use of chemical fertiliser.
He said this during a special discussion with his Ministry Secretary and officials handling foreign loans and aid projects.
Aluthgamage further said the fertiliser mafia is covering up all such information while there are over 100 kidney patients identified every month. He also commented on the unlimited use of fertiliser contaminating the soil.
He said, foreign aid and loan funded projects should be implemented in such a way that these problems would be solved. People think that when using foreign aid, everything is free, but the Government is implementing many projects on loan assistance.
While foreign aid projects provide much needed support for soil testing and fertiliser programmes as well as the use of organic fertiliser, everyone thinks that these are all done free but some of those projects are supported by loans, he added.
Aluthgamage further said that 216 small tanks will be modernised islandwide in 2021 through special assistance projects implemented under the Ministry of Agriculture. Also, several programmes are being implemented throughout the island to encourage the farming community to engage in the production process including seed production for various crops.
A Member of the Committee of Experts, appointed to formulate a National Agricultural Policy, Dr. Yasintha Mapatuna said, under the Small Scale Agribusiness Participation Programme, projects to employ young people in the agri-trade are being implemented in remote areas throughout the country.
Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, retired Major General Sumedha Perera said the coordination of all institutions related to agriculture is essential. He stressed that the lack of proper coordination of all foreign aid projects with the Central Government and Provincial Councils has caused many problems and all information on foreign projects should be informed to the Functional Operations Office of the Ministry of Agriculture.
It was also emphasised that foreign aid projects should be implemented in coordination with the national programme to make the country self-sufficient in at least 16 crops.
Aluthgamage instructed his Ministry officials to, while selecting groups to provide foreign fund assistance, to give priority to those living in poverty-stricken areas.
He urged the officials of the Ministry to inform him about foreign aid projects. In selecting difficult areas for aid groups, distribute fairly throughout the island and not just in one District, he instructed them.
He also said, if foreign aid is not used for the betterment of the poor farmers, opportunity should be made available to at least a single farmer in the same area to get assistance from two or three foreign aid projects.
Aluthgamage stated, foreign -funded projects do not benefit farmers in all parts of the island. “There are well equipped farmers with the technological know-how. But some of the projects like building anicuts are awarded to private contractors without involving farmers’ societies. There are 516 Agrarian Service Centres and through this, focusing on a practical programme, set up agro-production companies making farmers to be entrepreneurs is the way forward,” he added.
(Source: Ceylon Today – By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan)