The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will conduct training programmes for 300 Agriculture Extension Officers in Sri Lanka under an European Union (EU) funded project in order to boost Sri Lanka’s rice sector, the FAO announced.

The programme comes as part of an innovative project titled RiceUP, launched by the FAO in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Mahaweli Authority in Sri Lanka (MASL), with funding of €4 million from the European Union (EU).

The project aims at addressing the threat to food security caused by two consecutive seasons of poor harvests in 2021-2022. With a nearly 40% drop in paddy production in 2022, Sri Lanka’s rice ecosystem is vulnerable and requires immediate attention, the FAO mentioned.

Accordingly, the FAO and its partners will conduct training programmes for Agriculture Extension Officers (AEOs) on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM) in four districts: Ampara, Badulla, Hambantota, and Polonnaruwa. 

The training will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to guide paddy farmers on soil management and the optimal use of organic and chemical fertilizers to enhance crop yield while reducing chemical dependency.

The initial training session for Agriculture Extension Officers (AEOs) on IPNM practices was launched yesterday (20), at the Rice Research and Development Institute in Batalagoda, according to the FAO.

This session marks the beginning of a series of five training programs, aiming to train a total of 300 AEOs from the selected districts. The Training Manual, developed collaboratively with international and national consultants, the Department of Agriculture, MASL, and the University of Peradeniya will serve as the cornerstone of these training sessions.

IPNM is a sustainable land management practice that ensures soil quality, prevents degradation, and maximizes crop productivity while safeguarding the environment, it added, highlighting that the FAO’s induction of IPNM, coupled with the provision of urea fertilizer to smallholder farmers in selected districts, is a response to the challenges faced by farmers in accessing essential fertilizers and maintaining food security.
“By adopting IPNM and accessing urea fertilizer, smallholder paddy farmers can reduce costs and improve productivity, leading to better profitability and resilience to future shocks”, it said.

Through the implementation of sustainable farming practices, including the safe and efficient use of fertilizer and quality seed, RiceUP aims to enhance productivity, food security, and livelihoods in Sri Lanka’s paddy farming sector, according to the FAO.

Furthermore, FAO remains dedicated to ensuring the long-term sustainability and resilience of Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector together with its partners, it added.