Organic all the way | Daily News
Padaviya women celebrate President’s first anniversary in office with novel initiative

Organic all the way

A group of enterprising women in Sudarshana Village, Padaviya, Anuradhapura, are celebrating the first anniversary in office of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by marking the first anniversary of their organic farming project.

These women have turned to organic farming in a big way, helping to feed their entire village with wholesome food free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

The women have successfully cultivated nearly 30 vegetables and fruits in their home gardens since November 2019 and also established a shop that exclusively sells their produce to villagers and outsiders. There are customers coming even from Colombo to purchase their vegetables.

“This is our tribute to the President’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme. Once COVID-19 hit and the President spoke of import substitution, we realised the value of what we had begun one year ago. Today, our village is totally self-sufficient in food including organically-grown rice,” says W.S Dhammika who pioneered the concept in the village.

“We enjoy making organic gardens; now we do not allow our children and husbands to eat poison. We earlier spent about Rs. 5,000 a month on vegetables. Now that money is saved too. Everyone in our house is now happy to help with our organic cultivation.”

“A gentleman who works for a Lake House newspaper came and informed us about the potential of organic farming. Nimal Padmasiri of the Rural Society for Development helped us to realise that dream. We thought before that vegetables could not be made without chemical fertilizers. But we did as they told us to do. At first we were scared about it. Now it is very successful and vegetables are freely available all over the village. They have no toxins. We must stress the value of growing vegetables and fruits using organic fertilizers. Now there is no possibility of us eating poisoned food and getting sick. And the mental healing that is felt in the mind is very valuable. In the morning we now see the beautiful home gardens all over the village.”

She thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for promoting the idea of a localized economy sans imports of essential food items that can be grown locally possibly without using chemical fertilizers and weedicides. “Thanks to his astute leadership, during the Coronavirus crisis, we did not suffer. In fact, the Coronavirus crisis was a blessing in disguise for us as we tended to our gardens more during the lockdown. The entire village participated in our home garden programme. On his first anniversary in office, we invite the President to come to the Padaviya Sudarshana village and look at our home gardens and encourage us even more.”

A.W. Achini Sandamali, another organic farmer, said she can well remember the time when weeds had grown around their houses and they had other work to do every day. “When these gentlemen informed us about organic home gardening, we thought we could do something. We started work. The work is successful. Now we do not eat poison. A successful harvest is taking place. Twenty-five vegetables could be grown easily in our plot of land. It is sufficient to apply organic fertilizer only once for the plants. In a three-foot plot of land, we have now planted 15–20 varieties of vegetables. The harvest can be reaped now. Organic manure made from dung, straw, garbage, water hyacinth (Japan Jabara), albizia leaves and neem leaves is now available in every home in the village. I think the women who live in Sudarshana village are very lucky. Now we do not eat poison anymore. We thank the President for his vision and all those who contributed to this programme in our Sudarshana village.”

The village has another programme to produce organic fertilizer. Speaking on this eco-friendly project, H. Pathma Mayadunna of Padaviya Sudarshana village said, “We are using aquatic plants and cow dung that we could access easily in this area to produce organic fertilizer. The leftovers in home kitchens will also be used. With the coordination of a journalist, the Rural Social Development Institute taught us how to make money by utilizing everything disposable and environmentally friendly. Following the project, now we understand the amount of resources we wasted due to lack of knowledge. Now we understand that all we disposed earlier can be turned into money. We would like to extend our gratitude to those who made us aware of this income method.”

Another villager who is part of the project, W.M.G.M. Daya Kumari, said, “Since we are using all unnecessary aquatic plants, the lake will be beautiful in the future. Our houses and home gardens will be beautiful. We will also obtain an income. Also, the women in our village who will consume organic vegetables will be beautiful.”

Nimal Padmasiri, the Executive Director of the Rural Social Development Institute, speaking to the Daily News, said, “The President hopes to provide non-toxic food to the people of Sri Lanka in the future. In line with this vision, we would like to thank all these women in Padaviya Sudarshana village who have contributed to the success of this project. We are thrilled to provide guidance for this project. These women are very talented. Organic fertilizer will be produced in 50 houses in this village. The women who were poor earlier now receive a good income and can stand on their own feet.”