Mahawilachchiya Farmers’ Pumpkin Harvest Affected
By Eunice Ruth and Gayan
Farmers of Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura said that their pumpkin harvest has been affected due to the lack of chemical fertilisers, and it has made a huge impact on them. The residents said that 3/4 of the total pumpkin cultivation in Anuradhapura District has been done by Mahawilachchiya farmers and due to the unavailability of fertilisers, they are facing a lot of problems.
About 800 families in the village live on pumpkin and maize cultivation, and all the cultivation lands were irrigated with the help of Mahawilachchiya tank and wells. More than 1,000 acres in Mahawilachchiya, Pemaduwa, Mannar Junction, Kukulkatuwa, and Vilachchiya areas are cultivated by farmers in these villages. The farmers pointed out that, despite spending two months in the fields amidst wild elephant threats, the hardships go waste due to the unavailability of fertilisers at the correct time.
State Minister Duminda Dissanayake visited the village and had a discussion regarding the situation with a farmer and he visited the cultivation land to inspect the situation.
Ruwan Hemantha a farmer said that, 100 grammes of pumpkin seeds cost about Rs 5,000 and only a small area can be cultivated with it. A good income can be earned through pumpkin cultivation and he said, in the past they sold 1 kg of pumpkin for Rs 50. He told the Minister that with the proper use of chemical fertilisers, the cultivation can be done very well and they can expect a good harvest with large-sized pumpkins. “We used both chemical fertiliser and organic fertiliser methods for cultivation. However, organic fertilisers won’t give us the expected result as chemical fertilisers. Also, if we use chemical fertilisers, we can get the harvest in 70 days.
“Due to the fertiliser issue, we didn’t cultivate pumpkin last time and the Department of Agrarian Development has provided us with oorid dhal (undu) for the cultivation. We started oorid dhal cultivation and after a small period, the cultivation was stopped due to a plant infection. We had no profit from the cultivation,” said Hemantha. 50% of the farmers have financially fallen due to lack of chemical fertilisers. The Government could have given 50% chemical fertiliser and the remaining 50% could have gone to compost fertiliser cultivation.
Stopping the distribution of chemical fertilisers affected us severely and now we have cultivated pumpkin, but there is no harvest. The main reason for the loss of harvest is the lack of fertiliser and all the pumpkins are smaller in size now. The smaller pumpkin weighs 300-350 grams each. This is because of the fertiliser issue, he told the Minister. “Organic fertilisers are not giving us the expected result and if we use chemical fertilisers, we can expect a large pumpkin and a high income,” he said. He also said that they had never done 100% organic farming up to now.
The farmers of Mahawilachchiya further said that the land and the seeds are now completely adapted to chemical fertilisers and it is difficult to go for organic farming and get a good harvest.
“We are currently preparing to make organic fertiliser using grass and cow dung. When grass is mixed with cow dung and made into organic fertiliser, the whole paddy field becomes a jungle. The seeds which are in the grass will germinate. Till today, no one has given any advice or taught us to make organic fertiliser and due to this, it is difficult to say what will happen to us and our cultivation in the future,” a farmer said.
At present, about 1,000 to 1,500 acres of pumpkin have been planted, but it will not be possible to grow pumpkins with organic compost in the next season. With the chemical fertiliser system, a farmer earns more than Rs. 300,000 per acre and it is impossible for us to do the same in the future, it was said.
The farmers of Mahawilachchiya said that the Government did not look after the farmers who were cultivating vegetables and did not give any advice regarding the cultivation.
The Minister discussed with the farmers regarding the programme and the farmers said that, if this programme is followed step by step, it can be successful. Starting something without educating us is disappointing as we are not aware of these things, the farmers said. However, the farmers in Mahawilachchiya, were happy that the Minister had come forward to look after them on behalf of the Government.
In addition, the Minister also discussed with the farmers regarding the renovation of the elephant fence as a solution to the problem of wild elephants destroying the cultivation, and the digging of cultivation wells as a solution to the water problem.