Promoting Traditional Paddy

Reaping a plentiful harvest
Bagging the paddy
Preliminaries for cultivation of Traditional paddies – Rabukkana, Kegalle
Transplanting of paddy - Rabukkana, Kegalle

SLCDF is promoting traditional (heirloom) varieties of rice all aromatic delectable and some even medicinal farmed under organic conditions among the farmers in collaboration with Rural Returns (Gte) Ltd., a non profit company. Under this project RR is providing seeds, technical knowhow as well as guaranteed price for the cultivators. SLCDF provided seed capital under RLF through its network of CBOs, NGOs and District Consortia of NGOs (DCs) and mobilized the community.

As a pilot project started in two districts, in Kurunegala in two locations and Kegalle in one location, provided seed paddy of two niche varieties of rice, Suwandel and Kuruluthuda. Twenty five farmers cultivated 10½ acres in Kurunegala and thirty eight farmers cultivated 40 acres in Kegalle and part of the harvest was purchased by RR at a guaranteed price. The balance they sold in the open market at the same price.

Our network of CBOs, NGOs and DCs will continue the programme by using Revolving Loan Fund during the next season and expect to increase the number of farmers, varieties and extent cultivated.

Majority of the farmers are small holders with low productivity. It is limited to villages with minor irrigation tanks providing only supplementary irrigation, and cultivation under rain fed conditions not favouring the so called modern varieties of paddy. Cost of production with dependence on high external inputs brings about meagre returns, with unstable low market prices causing income insecurity among farmers.

SLCDF and its network in association with RR have developed a model to address this issue. It helps rural communities in filling missing links in value chains connecting communities to markets for small farmer produce. They hope to have a network of partner communities for exporting traditional (heirloom) varieties of rice. Sri Lanka had around 2000 endemic rice varietal, of which RR has initially opted to work with five varieties, all highly nutritious delectable aromatic and more often than not medicinal.

RR is also providing technical assistance training ensuring quality in processing and guaranteed high price as compared to the unstable price of modern varieties. The SLCDF network of small farmer CBOs NGOs and DCs will provide facilities for extending the programme to other poor communities.

In this experimental project, the sixty three farmers that cultivated fifty acres of land in last Maha season increased their paddy income by 100% and are moving away from chemical intensive agriculture. These farmers have already paid back their loans to the NGOs and they are ready to continue traditional paddy cultivation.