The winning proposals lay out a clear plan for commercial and export-oriented agriculture initiatives that facilitate private sector investment, provide technical assistance, strengthen farmer producer organizations and promote smallholder–agribusiness partnerships.
The goal is to increase their competiveness, business orientation and market position in order to make them more attractive business partners in the value chain. It’s an ambitious task, but Sri Lanka’s agri-entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge.
Matching grants scheme supports agribusiness
The matching grants scheme, implemented by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Primary Industries comes under the Agriculture Sector Modernization Project. Supported by the World Bank, with additional funding from the European Union, the project is implemented through the Ministry of Primary Industries, the Ministry of Agriculture, and five participating provinces including the Northern, Eastern, Central, North-Central and Uva Provinces.
A rigorous and transparent selection process was used to create a shortlist. Successful applicants would be offered up to 50 percent of the investment required through the scheme, matched by their own funds or raised from commercial loans.
These small enterprises need the boost. Today, beside a few major agriculture companies, most operators in Sri Lanka are small-scale cultivators who face problems related to low productivity and lack of diversification, absence of market linkages, non-availability of inputs and limited access to credit facilities. Farmers are not organised and tend to focus on low value crops that limit income generation.
At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.
According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.
But the natural resources needed to grow food are overstretched, and in many cases, severely depleted. Agriculture is also vulnerable to climate change and a changing climate could reduce crop yields by up to 25%. At the same time, agriculture is a big contributor to the climate problem, generating close to a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Without targeted interventions, that number could rise further, threatening the world’s food supplies.
My research in Azolla-Anabaena (AA) began in 1980, when I joined the Institute of Chemical and Environmental Sciences at Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After many years of research and testing with various partners, the World Bank’s Development Marketplace funded “Converting Rice Fields into Green Fertilizer Factories” in 2008. I would like to share with you the successes of this project, which has the potential to change the paradigm of rice production in Ecuador.
Rice in Ecuador is an essential and primary food for most of the population. The country harvests more than 300,000 hectares involving more than 140,000 families. Therefore it is important that rice is produced cost-effectively and in an environmentally sustainable manner. The production costs of rice depend on the type of seed, fertilizer and phyto-sanitary package used to control weed and insects, costs of labor, land preparation, rental equipment for seeding and harvest, and irrigation. The majority of fertilizers are chemical-based, involving heavy imports and causing environmental problems. More than 40% of the fertilizer applied is released into the environment, as plants cannot utilize 100%. In addition, purchases of imported chemical fertilizers for agriculture account for about 30% of current production costs.