Fruit Farm Community Project
Eastern Sri Lanka was hit hard by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and 30,000 lives were lost, homes and businesses destroyed and agriculture put back several years.
Our East Coast agent, Lal, proposed an experimental farm to grow new crops of fruit and vegetables that could be copied by families on their own small pieces of land. This idea was backed by Star Action last year and Lal has put £150 of his own money into it (probably 25% of his annual income).
The challenge is great as the soil is now very sandy (post-tsunami wave) and the rainfall sparse. However, water lies near the surface (usually 4-5 ft down) and a small water pump can be used to effect. We were pleased to find a well-fenced area of about ½ acre with a well and pump. Small patches of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables were being grown and were beginning to mature. There are several fruits: papaya, jackfruit, melon, karawila, mango, lemon, and vegetables: manioca, makera, brinjal, chillies, snakegoat, lady’s finger and small and large murunga. I had expected to see only four or five varieties in total. Some of those grown may prove to be too water-dependant or otherwise unsuitable but many, and the techniques to grow them, will be passed on to the community. Lal expects to add onions, beetroot, cabbage and paprika, and, encouraged by me, the protein-rich groundnut that I have some knowledge of from sub-Sahara Africa.
Altogether a fine start by our hard-working friend, and one which has every prospect of improving the fortunes and diet of his neighbours. We met Armurugan and her family, who live in a stone house recently built by the charity SOS. She has not one stick of furniture, but a good acre of land. As well as injecting more funds into the Fruit Farm, we decided to pay for her land to be fenced and to secure a water supply. The family members will clear the scrub on the land surface and begin to grow some of Lal’s new crops—to supplement their largely rice diet.