Home Garden Club hopes to change Sri Lankan attitudes towards food production

By Rachel Proby

The Mahatma Gandhi Centre launched a Home Garden Club last week, in what they hope will be a small step towards Sri Lankan agriculture becoming self-sufficient.

The Club aims to provide support and advice to everyone interested in home gardening, regardless of their economic restraints, and to raise awareness of the need for sustainable agricultural practices at all levels.

This initiative, which encourages its members to grow their own vegetables and herbs, comes at a time when there is growing concern about Sri Lanka’s dependence on food imports, leaving it vulnerable to price shocks within the market. Meanwhile the world population has doubled in the period 1960 – 2000 (from an approximate three billion to an approximate six billion) and is set to rise further in the coming decades, creating worries of a worldwide food shortage.

The launch of the Club, which took place at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre on Tuesday, featured Prof. G. S. Murty, a professor of Chemistry from India, as the keynote speaker.

Professor Murty discussed the problems faced in world food production today and how movements towards self-sufficiency and organic practices (which the Home Garden Club advocates) can provide a solution.

He particularly focused on the damage that industrial farming creates, both to the environment and to public health. He discussed how commercial farming in Northern India has ‘caused water levels in the region to fall by 33cm per year’ and highlight that the public health cost of pesticides per year is $1.1 billion in the US alone.

In order to avoid irreversible damage to the planet, agriculture ‘can no longer be treated as an industrial or purely commercial activity’, he said.

This is the Home Garden Club’s main objective. As the Club’s Executive Director, Gen. Kamal Fernando explained: "We believe that, in this country, everyone must embrace home gardening, for the food crisis is real and imminent".

By encouraging and fostering home gardening at a local level, the Club hopes that it can begin to make lasting changes in the way food and food production is viewed and valued within Sri Lanka, he said.

"We feel that if we can help the small community they can make the changes. It must come from the bottom. The top is too entrenched", he noted.

The Home Garden Club is hoping to achieve these goals by offering support and advice for anyone interested in gardening, and to raise awareness of its merits through the media including a bi-weekly column in The Island.

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