Sri Lanka, although a country better known for
its agricultural and livestock resources, has to spend a great
deal of money for importing milk.
It spent over Rs.13 billion for milk importation
in 2006. The amount is bound to increase by leaps and bounds if
the country does not expand and upgrade its dairy industry.
In the circumstances, international non-
governmental organizations (INGOs) operating in Sri Lanka have
come forward to assist the industry to realise its full
With this aim in view, the Humpty Dumpty
Institute (HDI), a United States based non-profit organization,
has put into operation a US $ 4 million project to clear 450,000
sq.m. of mined land in N-E Sri Lanka by the end of 2008 to kick
off rejuvenating the dairy industry.
According to HDI Country Director Ms Jeanne
Samuel, the Jaffna peninsula is an high potential area for dairy
production should the land be demined.
"Sri Lankan dairy farming sector contributes
marginally to the national economy, with domestic milk
production estimated to meet less than 20 percent of the
country’s needs. It is predominantly in the hands of small-scale
Sri Lanka spends approximately US $110 million
annually to import milk powder. The consumption of milk products
per head in Sri Lanka has more than doubled in the last 15
years, growing from an average of 10 litres to over 22 litres
"The Jaffna peninsula has sufficient land that
could profitably be harnessed to the dairy and livestock
industry. At present, that is impossible for much of the land
area is littered with landmines," lamented Ms Samuel.
The HDI began a landmine clearance and
agricultural development project in Sri Lanka in 2006. The
two-year project in the Jaffna peninsula has two interdependent
components: Landmine clearance of dairy farmland and dairy and
livestock systems development. Money was allocated through the
United States Department of Agriculture for the project.
Milk production in the Jaffna district decreased
by 66 percent between 1989 and 2003 mainly due to the armed
conflict and the resultant land mining.
The dairy and livestock sector in the Jaffna
peninsula has gone untapped and thereby unable to generate an
increase in household incomes and improve the livelihoods of
rural families, which could easily be done, pointed out HDI
"The small farmers are in great need of skills
training, farm management orientation and access to market
linkages," said the sources.
The target audience for HDI’s initiative is
approximately 2,000 small farmers living in the Jaffna peninsula
where dairy and livestock production holds high potential.
"The Tamil-Hindu population in Jaffna is eager
to get involved in dairy farming because working with cows is
symbolic of spiritual significance to them," said HDI sources.
The HDI believes many farmers in Jaffna who grow
cash crops could turn easily to dairy farming, which is more
profitable in the long term. It is confident its programme would
especially benefit the women of Jaffna, who traditionally are
the primary caretakers of livestock.
The first phase of HDI’s project is currently
underway. HDI and its partners are surveying and clearing
landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from farmlands and
opening access roads to more than 600,000 sq.m. of valuable land
currently rendered unusable due to the presence of landmines.
The cleared land will then be used for dairy and
livestock systems development. The project will include
introducing dairy and livestock production as a business to
small farmers, mobilizing private sector funding in dairy and
livestock business, services and infrastructure and developing
market outlets with hotels, restaurants and institutions that
ensure long-term sustainability for milk products produced and
processed by small farmers, farmer groups and small
The HDI predicts that by the end of the project,
2,000 farmers will be able to safely use over 600,000 sq.m. of
currently mined land for dairy farming and see their income
increase by at least 50 per cent.
It also hopes to triple the quantity of fresh
milk production which will encourage the development of the
private sector in the dairy industry.