ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Let’s grow a home garden culture and boost food production

Tales from the backwoods by Haris Tumpane

The recently launched “Plant a Coconut Palm in Your Garden” campaign, while laudable in principle, displays a singular lack of imagination, a lack of what it takes to respond to an imminent food shortage, and a lack of knowledge of what Sri Lankans love to call “ground realities”.

The first thought that comes to mind with this scheme is that it can hardly be considered a solution to the shortages being experienced in the here and now. It takes at best, under optimum conditions, about five years for a coconut palm to come into bearing. All that will be proved in this context is the adage: “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.”

Home gardens and community gardens need to be developed. God knows we have enough government employees tripping over each other to find work, as each successive government, seeking to fulfil its promise of “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Organise these people in a simple ( and I emphasize “simple”) programme to disseminate vegetable seed, fertiliser and information among rural and urban dwellers. Most Sri Lankans possess a fund of practical horticultural knowledge, but there are gaps in that knowledge that must be filled, hence the need for the information component.

The job of getting the information, seed and fertiliser out to the householder and peasant can be accomplished if you can stay away from tamashas with puffed-up politicians and avoid all the red tape, bribery and corruption.

Apply the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle and half the battle would be won. Keep the politicians out and the better part of the other half will be secured. This is the formula for success for this initiative.

It is a little-known fact that most of the world’s food is grown not in pampas, prairies, steppes or other vast land expanses but in home gardens. Logically, then, the place to start increasing food production is the home garden.

This writer lived in a city way north of the 49th parallel (which forms part of the border between the US and Canada), and was witness to what could be achieved by a disparate group of refugees from around the world when they got together to work in an inner-city community garden.

There were not a lot of officials of the kind who would be par for the course in dear old Lanka. The only official available for truly expert advice was the city’s horticulturalist, who had a plethora of other day-do-day responsibilities in his 9-to-5 routine. Not rocket science but just good sense, good humour and the will to succeed were all it took to ensure a good harvest that autumn.

Provide the seed, the fertiliser and the information and (with apologies to Mao Zedong, whose name is associated the famous Chinese slogan “Let a hundred flowers bloom”) see a billion bandakkas bear!

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