Regional cooperation can improve food security

Published: Friday 15 May 2009

Bhutan Bank's Dil Bahadur Rahut and P A Samaratunga from Colombo's Institute of Policy Studies were in New Delhi recently to discuss food security at a conference of South Asian countries. They spoke to Savvy Soumya Misra on the food crisis in their respective countries

Down to Earth On food security Farmland in Bhutan is fragmented. We cannot use heavy machinery like tractors as farms are on hilly terrain. Most farmers grow just enough to feed their families; the food stocks run out by April. Investment in agricultural research and development has also decreased.

On ensuring adequate food supply Bhutan imports most of its food and heavily depends on India. To ensure steady supplies through import, we need to increase our export (base). There is a huge potential for growing apples and oranges. We can grow mushrooms that are in demand in Japan.Medicinal herbs found in the Himalaya can also be grown and exported. The government needs to explore these possibilities. It should also promote handicraft.

On increasing agricultural yield There is no land available to expand cultivation. So we need to increase productivity by using fertilizers, though farmers are not keen on it. The other option is to use high yielding grains.

Down to Earth On food shortage Water scarcity is a major problem in Sri Lanka as we have exhausted our freshwater resources. Agriculture now solely depends on rains; arable land remains fallow as water for irrigation is not available. The crop cycle is now restricted to two yields a year. Agricultural research and development have decreased in the past 30 years and agricultural growth is stagnant.

On the way out It is not feasible to expand the existing irrigation facilities. The government should improve efficiency through judicious use of water. Practices like flooding paddy fields need to be stopped. Though Sri Lanka imports food from India, the two countries do not have technical collaborations. This has to be remedied.

On increasing agricultural yield There should be investments in agricultural research to increase yields. Less water intensive agricultural practices should be adopted. Getting crop technology right is as important as using the right irrigation method.

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