The farmers in Sri Lanka, like of most of their counterparts in the Asian region, engage only in primary production. Whether they are paddy, vegetable, grains, spices or milk, the farmers are used to selling their production in bulks to the merchants who are a part of well-organized marketing networks. As experienced by all the farmers, they are compelled to sell their raw productions at very low prices. This creates poverty and very low standard of life among the farmers. Most, if not all, of the farmers are somewhat trapped into this vicious cycle and left with no other option. Though they are the group that helps feed the whole nation, many farmers live in poverty.
The farmers are ultimately left with nothing but with massive amount of accumulating loans. In Sri Lanka too, high number of farmer suicides are reported because of debts. Most of the farmers get loans from the very people who are supposed to buy their production at the end of the harvesting season. The system is so cruel that these money lenders come to the thrash floor itself in order to take the whole harvest into their custody and charge it against the loans that these farmers have already taken. The farmers are literally left with nothing. They have to take another loan to start cultivating for the next season, promising to give the whole harvest at whatever price that the money lender dictates. These ‘middlemen’ earn massive profits and face no risk or uncertainties.
The dialogues among the victimized farmers facilitated by MTC2 Project were the first steps. The leaders of the Lanka Farmer’s Forum took the initiative to start this process. At first, the farmers had no idea about this as they were so accustomed to the vicious cycle. Slowly some of the key farmers realized the cruelty of the system that has made the farmers so helpless. They decided to explore the possibilities of adding value to their primary products.
The most important and the striking point to note was that all of these farmers exposed to these small machinery have seen them for the first time in their life thus, they looked at them with so much interest and enthusiasm. Though the whole world is marching forward with new technological advancements through electronic and digital elements, the farmers are terribly lagging behind, once again creating huge social gap.
The key farmers were exposed to the government-based technological research center NERD in Ekala. An exposure visit was arranged with NERD to discuss the possibilities of getting the services for these farmers who are interested to get rid of selling the raw harvest in bulks, but want to engage in adding values to them. They discussed with the officers concerned as to how to get technological support for this purpose. The officers introduced the small and medium size machinery and explained how to operate them. They also put the farmers in contact with the local authorized manufacturer of those machinery.
On the other hand, these farmers were linked with the Industrial Development Board. The officers concerned interacted with the farmers and explained how to set-up a small business with their primary harvests—vegetables, rice-grain, spices, palm (thal), cassava, etc.
Now, some of the key farmers have already bought the appropriate machinery with the help of the MTCP 2 project and started the value adding process slowly but steadily.