New technologies and training are helping farmers in northern and eastern Sri Lanka apply innovative agricultural methods to increase their productivity and market competitiveness.
Agriculture is an important part of the Sri Lankan economy, engaging one-third of the working population. However, most farm households have limited knowledge of modern production methods and struggle to access commercial markets. These obstacles constrain their ability to compete in the market and increase their incomes. In response to these challenges, USAID and Chemonics are partnering on the Supporting Opportunities in Livelihoods Development (SOLID) project, which trains farm households in the northern and eastern regions of the country on improved agricultural practices and new technologies. The project focuses on providing training for value chains in the dairy and horticulture sectors.
Project interventions in the dairy sector have had a sustainable impact on the rural economy. In the 1970s, local milk production covered 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s consumption needs, but an open economic policy and growing demand resulted in a sharp increase in imports of dairy products, especially milk powder. Presently, domestic milk production covers only 20 percent of national consumption.
One constraint to production has been low-quality cattle feed, which led to low milk output and thus low income for small-scale dairy farmers in northern Sri Lanka. To increase local dairy farms’ milk production, SOLID introduced proper feeding methods and has helped full-time commercial dairy farmers establish strong milk collection networks. Project staff are now working with 460 dairy farmers in six districts to improve milk production and increase output.
Punnathurai Sivanesan, a dairy farmer in Northern Province, has reared cattle most of his life using traditional techniques he learned from his parents. As a result of SOLID’s extensive training, he learned how to produce highly nutritious silage — green fodder that is compacted and stored in airtight conditions to ferment and feed animals in the dry season — for his 35 cows. Mr. Sivanesan is the first farmer to produce and sell silage in this province.
“Before I started (using silage), I used to get a milk output of around 5 liters a day from two cows. Now I get around 25 liters a day from four cows,” he explained.