US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Samantha Power, on Saturday (10), announced an additional USD 40 million grant to Sri Lanka, which will be utilised to strengthen agriculture in Sri Lanka through the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The FAO, in a statement on Saturday (10), said, this new funding is going to help one million local farmers get the fertiliser and the agricultural necessities they need, just in time for the next planting season.
The new funding, subject to Congressional approval, will bring the total USAID funding provided to the Sri Lankan people through FAO this year to USD 46 million. The funding primarily targets the forthcoming major cultivation season – 2022-2023 Maha (October-March) and the subsequent minor cultivation season – 2023 Yala (April-August). It will provide essential fertiliser and cash transfers for farmers to increase paddy production and avert a protracted food crisis.
The new commitment was announced by Power at a discussion held with paddy farmers and FAO representatives on Saturday. The USAID Administrator said, “Today, having spoken to these farmers and heard about their needs, I’m announcing an additional USD 40 million in assistance to Sri Lanka from the American people. Through USAID, this new funding is going to help one million local farmers get the fertiliser and the agricultural necessities they need, just in time for the next planting season.”
FAO will utilise the funds to strengthen the production capacity of paddy rice farmers through the supply of Triple Super Phosphate (TSP) fertiliser. TSP, which has not been available in the country for the last two cultivation seasons, will be provided for all paddy farmers in Sri Lanka, to ensure the forthcoming agricultural seasons are able to feed the Sri Lankan people.
In addition to TSP, USAID funding will provide 186,000 smallholder farmers with land holdings up to 1 hectare (2.5 acres), from the poorest districts in the dry and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka with 50 kilos of urea each. Smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable rural communities, primarily cultivating rice for self-consumption. The lack of fertiliser over two consecutive seasons has significantly reduced yields, forcing most farmers to resort to extreme measures (pawning, buying on credit, dipping into savings, etc.) to meet their food security and nutrition requirements.
Speaking on the announcement, Vimlendra Sharan, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives thanked the US for its timely and generous contribution to strengthen the country’s food capacity, especially those of the most vulnerable farmers to contribute toward enhanced paddy production over the coming seasons. He said, “Through the support provided by USAID, FAO will be able to strengthen food security in Sri Lanka by ensuring the forthcoming agricultural seasons are not compromised, while also protecting the most vulnerable smallholder farmers from the worst impacts of the prevailing crisis.”