The speech made by the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Organic Fertilizer Processing Centre at Udubaddawa, Bunnehepola.
I came here especially to witness how the farmers use organic fertilizer locally and to observe how pesticides are being made. However, at present, we also talk about green agriculture.
I have mentioned this in our policy statement. Some say that all of a sudden I came up with this new policy. But it’s not like that. In my speech in the first Parliamentary session, I have stated that we should develop agriculture by using other materials and not chemical fertilizers.
We know that for years the doctors, various sections of the health sector, and some experts in our agricultural sector have been talking about this. Even previous governments have tried to do this. This is a difficult task. The people of my generation have experienced traditional farming. My parents did farming. Today, when we go to the same paddyfield, there are no more earthworms, Kakkutto or Madakari that used to live in the paddyfields. It is not safe to bathe in the canals today like we did in the past. In our area, in the Hambantota district, water quality of wells have deteriorated. Occasionally, there is a well with safe drinking water. There was a traditional well in the middle of our paddyfield. The whole village drank water from that well. Today, the water in that well is not safe to drink. The toxic chemicals used for the paddyfields have mixed with the water of the well and the water is completely polluted.
When we visit the areas where paddy cultivation is done, we are asked to provide RO (Reverse Osmosis) Water Purifiers for the people living in those areas, because they don’t have access to safe drinking water. Chronic kidney disease has spread among the young children as well. If we visit the cancer hospital, we can see a large number of children there.
This is something everyone knows. Unfortunately, no leader made a decision. I was elected to make a difference in this country. Especially for the agricultural sector. We gave fertilizer free of charge. We provided the fertilizer free to improve the living standards of the farmers. We increased the guaranteed price of paddy. But none of these things were highlighted today. Some sections of the society provoked the farmers and now they are demanding chemical fertilizers. Anyone who asks for chemical fertilizer should also ask for a kidney along with the fertilizer.
A large Nephrology Hospital was built in Polonnaruwa for the benefit of kidney patients. We need to make a transformation in the agricultural sector for our children and the future generations. Farmers have been accustomed to urea and other chemicals for about forty years. Today, we can prove this. There are other places where various organic fertilizers are being made. I am planning to visit all those places to encourage the people who are engaged in this process. We need to take this view to the village. We need to encourage the farmers. The farmers need to be told that this is something they can achieve. They need to be made aware regarding the organic fertilizer and that it has a huge economic potential.
If we can convince the world that Sri Lanka is one of the countries in the world that practices farming without using chemicals, that alone is a factor adequate enough to attract tourists to our country.
It is enough for us to create a good market. There is a good demand for organic farming in the world. If we can produce high quality products we can bring foreign exchange. Then we can increase the guaranteed price from 50 rupees to 150 rupees. That should be the target. That is my objective.
This issue has been politicized erroneously. Some interested parties are provoking the farmers. That is not something one should do. I ask if this is a good thing or a bad thing. All of you also must think whether this endeavor is a good thing or a bad thing. Good things are hard to fulfill. Although it is difficult, we should do it without taking political advantages out of it. We have to work together without politics to make this a success.
When I was appointed as the Secretary of Defence, there was a 30 years old war. Everyone said don’t get involved in this issue. But two and a half to three years after we started the operation, terrorism was completely eradicated. This is also a fight similar to that. Some people are against the banning of chemical fertilizers.
They are spending money to stop this effort. But we need to move forward despite those obstacles. It is something that can be done.
A leader coming from a political background will not initiate this concept. Why is that? Due to the fear of losing votes. I fearlessly say that I’m not after votes. What I want to do is what’s good for the country, the people and the future generation. This is also the case with renewable energy.
We have no oil, coal or gas. Though we do not have any of these, we still try to move towards them. But we have water, we have wind and solar power. However, it seems that we oppose these while some others say coal power plants should be built.
Most of the people in the world today talk about how we can prevent climate change and what are the solutions to them. It is useless to simply talk about these, we need to implement these solutions. I accepted this challenge in order to do something good for the future generations. We must work together for the benefit of future generations and for our country without seeking narrow political advantage.
This is something we can do in a short period of time. It doesn’t take 10 or 15 years. The use of chemical fertilizers over the years has made the entire country barren. Species like earthworms that enhanced the fertility of our soil are now not to be found. Reservoirs, rivers, and waterfalls all are contaminated with chemical fertilizers. We can’t drink such water. Is it now safe to drink water from wells in villages? Today, we are asking for RO (Reverse Osmosis) machines because of this. Waterfalls and rivers are polluted. We need to revert these effects, for our future generations. We should not be deceived by false propaganda. We must do what’s right. It’s hard to do the right thing. Although it is difficult, we must do it for the people of this country.
This centre I visited today is a good example. I came here to witness it and encourage these efforts. There are many such places in the country. If we want them to succeed, we must encourage them. We saw that there is a very good solution in his programme. We have to introduce them to other farmers as well.
We give billions of dollars to fertilizer manufacturers abroad. Why can’t we create new entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka and give them that amount? We can create new businesses, new products instead. This is a good thing. We need to do that.
We have not used urea for thousands of years. Urea was brought to Sri Lanka in the 70’s. I have seen how my parents cultivated. They did not use urea. We received a good harvest by taking care of the environment and water. We have forgotten the traditional practices and have embraced other options instead, and now the entire country has been destroyed. I especially urge farmers to place their trust in me.
Since the day I was elected, the focus was on increasing the income of farmers. There were incidents where farmers committing suicide as they could not get even 25 rupees for paddy. Now that we have ensured a guaranteed price of 50 rupees, the farmers give paddy at 60 or 65 rupees today. When the price of paddy goes up, the price of rice also goes up. 75% of the population in this country live in rural areas and 75% of these people are farmers. We need to increase the income of these people. That is my goal. I have initiated this with a good intention. I seek the support of farmers in this endeavour.