11/11/2015 – Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka: In recent years, Sri Lanka has endured a series of extreme weather-related events, attributed in part to the effects of climate change. Since 2010, torrential rains have caused five major floods and the country has also been beset by four periods of significant drought.
One of the consequences of these erratic weather patterns has been the economic hardship born by farmers like David Singgho who comes from the small village of Nagastenne in the district of Polonnaruwa.
“It doesn’t rain as much as it used to,” said the father of two. “Back in the old days, we had two seasons of rain for cultivation, but now the rain patterns are unreliable. Sometimes you can go for months without a single drop.”
Like many farmers in Sri Lanka’s dry zone, Mr. Singgho has to work hard to keep his family out of poverty. His daily task is made even more challenging after he became an amputee following an accident.
The effects of the current El Nino phenomenon originating over the Pacific have certainly not helped Sri Lanka’s farmers. The countries dry zone in the eastern, central and northern provinces have been hit by drought and for the past two months over 150,000 people in the worst-affected areas have been reliant upon deliveries of water tankered by local authorities.
Helping poor farmers like Mr. Singhoo to adapt to such climate uncertainty has been a priority for the Red Cross. He recently became part of the Combating Adverse Impacts Of Climate Change Through Sustainable Agricultural Practices project, initiated by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and implemented in Nagastenne village. The project derives technical guidance from the Natural Resource Management Centre of Peradeniya and is implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with funding support from the Global Environmental Facility.
The project aims at supporting farmers to utilize modern technological methods to adapt and improve traditional farming practises amidst adverse conditions. Now Mr. Singgho has learned to use sustainable agricultural practices which include digging small holes on barren, degraded land and filling them with organic matter – adding nutrients to the soil where he sows crops. He also constructs mud lines called contour bunds on his farmland to slow down water runoff, prevent erosion, and assist in recharging groundwater levels.
For example, David dig small holes on barren, degraded land and fill them with paddy, adding nutrients to the soil where he sows crops. He also constructs mud lines called contour bunds on his farmland to slow down water runoff, prevent erosion, and assist in recharging the groundwater.
These water-harvesting techniques have allowed farmers to restore completely degraded land to much higher levels of production.
Many of the villagers in Nagastenne are depending on farming activity and are affected by effect of erratic weather patterns/climate change. The project interventions are designed to support the villagers to withstand/reduce the effect of climate change.
These water-harvesting techniques have allowed over 100 families in Nagastenna to restore completely degraded land to much higher levels of production.
“Watering crops on this harsh landscape is no easy task, especially with my condition,” said Mr. Singgho. “Having access towards this modern type of farming eases my burden and also helps me to cultivate better crops.”
SLRCS continues to aid people in the forefront of vulnerability in modern disasters such as climate change, and has been aiding them to reshape their approach in order to survive better. With partnerships with organization such as the UNDP and the Global Environmental Facility, the project has been able to provide more support to farmers like David who are struggling to make a better life.