Farmers for a Phased Out Transition From Chemical to Organic Fertilizer; Supplemented With Advice

Published on The Island

The farming community of Sri Lankan doesn’t want a haphazard rush towards full-scale organic fertilizer use. Instead, they prefer a properly phased out process supplemented with adequate advice, a new survey has revealed, Executive Director of Verité Research (Pvt.) Ltd. Dr. Nishan De Mel said.

“This was one of the key findings of the first survey of its kind carried out among farmers on the chemical fertilizer ban. It was carried out by Verité Research. The survey was conducted among farmers who cultivate paddy, fruits, vegetables, coconut, tea, minor export crops (spices) and cereal, De Mel said during an online media briefing last Wednesday, where Verité Research released results of an island wide farmer survey on the chemical fertilizer ban.

De Mel added: ‘President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa announced a ban on the import of chemical fertilizers to Sri Lanka. Verité Research conducted a “Farmers’ Pulse” telephone survey to elicit the views of farmers on this policy and its expected impact. This is the first time that the perception of Sri Lankan farmers on this policy is being presented, based on statistically representative island wide survey results.

‘Verité Research implemented this telephone survey in July 2021 among 1,042 farmers through Vanguard Survey, a specialized survey agency in Sri Lanka. The survey sample consisted of farmers who cultivated crops for commercial purposes and was distributed evenly among all nine provinces. Additionally, only farmers who cultivate more than half an acre and have engaged in farming for more than three years were selected for the survey.

‘The Verité Research survey said almost two-thirds of the farmers were supportive of the government’s vision to move Sri Lanka towards organic agriculture, but almost 80 percent of those who were supportive felt that it would require more than one year to do so.

‘Over 90 percent of farmers surveyed said they currently use chemical fertilizer and almost all of them or 85 percent expected huge reductions in their harvest (average expected reduction of 47 percent ) if they were not able to use chemical fertilizer.

‘The highest dependency on chemical fertilizer is among paddy farmers (94 percent), followed by tea and rubber (89 percent).

“There is a low level of confidence on the knowledge required for the transition. Only 20 percent of the farmers said they had adequate knowledge on suitable organic fertilizers and the proper application of it to their crops.

“The survey also revealed 44 per cent of the farmers experienced a decline this harvest and 85 per cent foresee a decline in the future.

“As per the survey, the three major requests that farmers make of the government are: (1) advice and instructions on organic fertilizer; (2) more time, so that it can be a gradual transition and (3) standardized supply of organic alternatives.

“This is the first time that the perception of Sri Lankan farmers on this policy is being presented based on statistically representative island wide survey results.”