Burning farmland, viewed from the plane to Trinco
In his various avatars, Rajaratrala is up in arms about the new government home garden plan. Divi Neguma (or Divineguma) is, as far as I understand it, a plan to fund people to grow their own food. This will supposedly relieve them from food price rises and lead to more self-sufficiency. Governments around the world – from Indonesia to America – have made farming a political issue rather than an economic one. Their meddling usually bills taxpayers to make things worse.
Raja was an active farmer until he got run over by a government minister’s convoy.
It is preposterous for a senior minister in government to say that the above program will uplift the lives of one million households. Just think about the logic. They are supposed to provide the basics, so that households will become self sufficient in many areas including food production, but also on livelihood development. This if one takes a five person household should positively affect 25% of the population of this country. Are they dreaming in technicolor?
The hundred rupees of seeds given to my neighbor in Hingurakgoda as part of the program did not even germinate, such is the quality of the seeds they provide. You can take a horse to water but cannot force it to drink. (Divineguma – A Way Too Hoodwink A Nation)
When Mervyn Silva told people to deal with vegetable prices by growing their own people laughed, but it’s now a serious government policy. It’s a bit odd that a policy that giving out packets of seeds to people in the face of rising food prices is being taken seriously. What about, you know, actual economic management?
Telling people to farm is like telling them to go back in time. Farming may be a lifestyle that people hark back to fondly, but most young people want to get a better paying job in services or industry. The agricultural share of GDP has been dropping steadily for decades while the value of services is increasing.
People are also not doing agriculture to eat, which is also called subsistence farming. Most people earn wages and spend money to buy, you know, tinned fish. “Out of the total household income, around 86 percent of the income is received as monetary income in 2009//10 and 2006/07” (statistics.gov.lk).
There are broad economic forces that the government is trying to hold back with a handful of seeds. If instead they focused on inflation, reducing wasteful spending and funded education instead of fertilizer, that would have a more direct effect on peoples lives. Let them eat cake is one thing. This is let them grow the ingredients and make it at home.