Sustainability of Agriculture: the West goes East or Wisdom at last dawns on the West.
Posted on October 3rd, 2011

Dr Sudath Gunasekara retired Ministry Secretary (SLAS) 3.10.2011.

Stan Cox writing to the Sri Lanka Guardian on the 14th of July 2008 under the caption ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Fixing a Broken AgricultureƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ has made a stunning revelation on the present state of American Agriculture.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  While doing so he has also warned the entire worldƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  on theƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ecological destruction in progress all around that arise out of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…” the human economyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s unvarying tendency to over produce what is profitable while at the same time under producing what is neededƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  He also goes on to say that there is no better example of that than American agriculture, quoting his latest work Broken Agriculture 2008. For bringing agriculture, what he calls ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”into line with ecological realityƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ he presents two prescriptions, namely a short term and long term one. The first he says includes some efforts that can be started today that will help to get humanity through mid-century and the second, (which also must be accelerated and soon- in his own words)ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢will take longer to complete but will be necessary to sustain agriculture to the end of the century and beyondƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This introduction I think is both a revelation on the present state of world agriculture and also a stunning prediction on the future facing sustainability and perhaps a grim warning on our survival on this planet earth.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Among other things he highlights the following as the salient points in American agriculture.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 1 The American agriculture is not a food system. It generates food only as a by-product where the by-product is wealth to support companies that produce seed, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, diesel fuel and other inputs that feed on the food leaving the farm.

2The present system is ecologically devastative.

3 It consumes more energy to market food items than to produce and the actual cost to the consumer is over four times the farm gate cost.

4 Agriculture (may be as he sees it there) is the planetƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s chief cause of soil erosion, bio-diversity loss and creation of costal hypoxic

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This process he sees as a major threat to sustainability in agriculture and human survival. To overcome this danger he prescribes two causes of action; one a short term and another a long term one as he has said

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ His list of short term recommendations is given below.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 1An end to the feed lot and animal confinement and a reduction in meat consumption

2.Replacement of grain cropping with ecologically well managed perennial pasture and range.

3 Removing more of the most erodable land from production and establishing tree and grass buffers

4 Using biological nitrogen fixation rather than industrially produced nitrogen

5Reversing rural-to-urban human migration to help to return the fertility in human and animal waste to the soil.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ These he argues are only palliative changes which will allow us to do no more than put a tourniquet on agriculture, in a grim attempt to slow the hemorrhaging of soil, water, nutrients, chemicals and biodiversity.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Long term recommendation

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ His long term recommendation is a return to diverse perennial vegetation. Under this he ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”entails the replacement of annual grain monocultures, with polycultures of perennial grains and oil seeds etcƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  (how they are going to replace a crop like paddy one has to wait and see-although he says that attempts are already being made to develop a variety of perennial upland rice by a group of Chinese scientists of the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences from crosses between standard Asia rice (Oryza sativa) and two wild perennial species (O, longistaminata and O. rufipongon). However it may be pointed out that such a possibility cannot be completely ruled out. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ What does all this mean? As I understand it what Cox argues for is that we should give priority to agriculture which he considers as the root of all economies (doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t this display the acceptance of the Buddhist concept of Sabbe Satta Aharatthika- all beings subsist on food), replace greed with need (DoesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t this agree with what Mahatmaganadhhi said and what Schumacher reproduced as Buddhist Economics in his Small is Beautiful 1974 P.51), go back to nature that will protect the natural ecology ( what Rachel Carlson argued for in 1962 in her Silent Spring and Richard Thornton Smith so eloquently argued in 2001), preserve the watersheds, reforest denuded land and go back to experience and tradition that is closer to nature and that will preserve energy and thereby reduce cost of agricultural products (what I advanced as my own thesis for the PhD on Sustainability of Peasant Agriculture in Sri Lanka 2006). ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Richard Thornton Smith (2001)makes the following observations on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-There is a need to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”go back to our rootsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ for a more sustainable way of agriculture which will support the life of the planet-soil, plant, animal man- in perpetuityƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Agriculture is in crisis.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Both small and large scale farmers are not making a living through these modern agricultural practices since the cost of input fertilizer, pesticides and seeds are comparatively high to what they actually get for their produceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Large multinational companies who reap in the cash and offer just a pittance to the farmers and modern chemical farming practices have made farmers bankruptƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-These trends should be reversed and rethink, since these intensive agricultural trends trap farmers in a vicious cycle of poverty, destroy the soil, pollute the environment, while adversely affecting both the soil and the farmer. The link between the deterioration of soil and the need for more and more chemical fertilizer to maintain high yields is causing havoc in the environment.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-This is the harm that we are doing not only to ourselves but to the future generation as well.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Our own health and that of our children, our environment, our very future depends upon the health of our land where we grow our food.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-To practice bioƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬’dynamic farming methods one has to have an understanding of health, cause of disease, and not just treating the symptoms.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Modern day agricultural developments such as genetic engineering and biotechnology are an extension of the industrial, symptom driven systems where a deficiency is treated with fertilizer, a disease with fungicide without ever trying to identify the underlying imbalance.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This imbalance causes further chain reactions in the social and economic environment as well.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-In order to grow healthy plants a healthy soil is needed.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The health in the soil is provided by life from the animals and plants and through diverse organisms in the environment.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t come through synthetic chemical substances, but through the environmentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s bioƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬’diversity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This is the idea behind the organic farming concept which makes it sustainable and ecologically soundƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

The above argument by Thornton Smith I think makes a very strong case for indigenous technology as an instrument of sustainable agriculture. Cox is an American scientist and Smith a British: both from two giant Western industrial countries who have faced the real brunt of modernization in agriculture. Therefore it is more authentic and reliable than something coming from a solitary man in a so-called third world country which would have definitely looked down upon as anti-colonial or anti-western and unscientific rubbish by ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”enlightened academics and intellectualsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ who worship the western corpus of knowledge as universal and sacrosanct.

I am particularly happy that Cox has highlighted four factors I have advanced in my thesis that is the need for protecting the watersheds, need for going back to tradition and endogenity and the need to replace greed with need.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Cox appears to reject large scale agriculture as it is presently practiced in the USA and many other countries that destroys the ecology, the use of chemical throughputs to agriculture that again destroys the entire eco system including bio diversity, genetic diversity and the natural process of nitrogen fixation and high cost marketing processes like packaging, transport and advertising etc that increase the cost of food items. Since all these items comprise the hallmark of modern agriculture, doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t this also mean a total rejection of modernization of agriculture as it is conceived by the west and also marks a clarion call for endogenity and eco friendly approaches as the basis of sustainable agriculture? DoesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t this also dispel the so-called globalization myth, at least in the field of agriculture? Those who advocate the blanket approach in applying western knowledge and technology to agriculture the world over should at least now try to re-asses their stand and open their eyes to see the stark reality. It is true that the world is one. But one must realize that the countries are different and the regions and localities are still different. They have their own and distinctive geographical characteristics like soil, climate, physiography and socio-cultural and even religious ethos that more or less determine the nature of their agricultural systems. IsnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t universality in this context a big humbug?ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

When we think of the ecological and genetic devastation that followed large scale use of insecticides and pesticides etc with the inauguration of the Green Revolution in countries like Sri Lanka where practically all the farmer friendly paddy insects, frogs and even fish in the village streams have been virtually destroyed, one can imagine the destruction modern technology has done to local agriculture. Another example is the dependency on imported seed materials. The Monaragala Indian corn case, where thousands of acres of corn, were affected and the tragedy of local papow cultivation due to its total dependence on imported seeds at exorbitant cost as the imported varieties do not produce seeds that germinate could be cited as two good examples of technological bungling by our so-called agricultural scientists who have nothing else in their heads other than what they have learned from the book and the greed for commissions, but the love for the country?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I think what Cox has high lighted is an eye opener for all our agricultural scientists, both in the universities and allied institutes, and policy makers who just blindly follow the western knowledge corpus as the panacea for our problems in the agricultural sector without making any effort to look inside and try to understand how our people sustained their agriculture over a period of two millennia in this Island and also without discarding our knowledge base as inefficient, unproductive, primitive, backward ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ and outdated.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The widely accepted notion among many of them that all what is western is modern and universal, I think should be rejected at least now. No knowledge base more particularly on agriculture is universal for that matter. It varies with time and space and all indigenous knowledge is specific to a given place and time. It is generated from within making regular adjustments appropriate to a given climate, soil and even cultural practices and ethos.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Sri Lanka has been a unique example which has considered the protection of watersheds, the ecological balance and socio-cultural ethos for many thousands of years as crucial ingredients to maintain sustainability in agriculture and that has developed a unique irrigation and land use technology to meet these requirements. It is perhaps the only country where the concept of protecting the total environment not only for humans but also for the benefit of all living beings on earth alike was accepted and the Ruler was designated as the guardian and protector of the forest and the land for the benefit of all beings. Not only these norms were legalized by royal decree but they were also accepted and practiced by the people under both social acceptance and ethical compulsion.


7 Responses to “Sustainability of Agriculture: the West goes East or Wisdom at last dawns on the West.”

  1. Dham Says:

    I wonder what Mr. Ben Silva ( who is addicted to wisdom of the west) got to say about the facts Dr. Gunasekara pointed out here.

  2. anura seneviratna Says:

    Salutations to Dr. Gunasekara in highlighting agriculture with wisdom in harmony with nature. We have abundance of our indigenous knowledge still intact if we want to chose the wisdom’s way in sustainable agriculture. Not only in agriculture but in governance, health, education etc. we have unwisely and due to coarse foreign pressure, have replaced with a gamut of anti-natural toxic way of life.

  3. nilwala Says:

    A very interesting and informative article. Thank you.
    The psyche of the Western civilizations has been towards exploitation of the planet to the utmost, and therefore the need for “balance” or”sustainability” did not enter their perspectives. Colonialism exported Western thinking and many nations came to accept increase of productivity as a worthy goal. The ill effects via food thus produced, on human and animal health, of chemical fertilizers etc. that were used to achieve this are only now being accepted by the discerning, as Organic agriculture gets the needed recognition.
    Sri Lanka is a country that should and could specialize in Organic agriculture, and we hope the government would give all the necessary encouragement to take Agriculture in that direction.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    Kudos to Dr Gunasekera for this timely piece of writing. Totally agree with him on the need to go back to some of our ancient and wise ways in agriculture, using natural methods as opposed to artificial methods that devastate the soil and the environment, and us all in the process. Countries facing winters may need to have lots of canned, frozen & other packaged foods, but in Lanka fresh, cooked and raw wholesome foods should be made readily available. Even packaged food can be more wholesome if Organic foods are used.

    The Agricultural Dept. should start a Seed Bank immediately, collecting all the best seeds from all useful plants in Lanka and make local, hardy, organically grown seeds available at a low price to all farmers.
    Organic foods are very tasty and have more nutrition compared to the non-organic foods – I know the difference. Small, Organic, Co-operative farms may suit Lanka’s future needs. Now the current trend in the west is preference for organically grown food. Even the first lady of America, Michelle Obama, grows an Organic vegetable patch at the back area of the White House !

  5. Ben_silva Says:

    Good article by Dr SG and good valid points by Cox et al. Nilwala also has made a very interesting and a valid contribution. I have always promoted self reliance on food and energy and also for food and energy security. If our economy is organised properly, self reliance and food security cold be a reality. This has been achieved by EU with appropriate policies.
    Unfortunately, many ingenious people around the world have yielded to commercial pressures.
    Solving problems cannot be achieved by giving up desires or being frightened of pain and hanging on to Indian religions that even Indians do not believe now.
    As Nilwala indicated, the West is greedy and has been exploiting world resources. At least some appear to recognise the need for sustainable development. . In order to resist the greedy West, we need to be strong.
    The world population is growing at an alarming rate and the world population will need food and energy. So population control also need attention.
    Time to dump religion and analyse problems in a scientific way, rather than hanging on to unproven myths and beliefs, that has caused the extinction of the believers

  6. Geeth Says:

    Wonderful article. Although this is still the thinking of a minority, it is stimulating to see people think sensibly and logically world over. The fundamental transformation in our media to highlight this new thinking needs to be recognized and appreciated. A few years back, this transformation was unthinkable and most of our media outlets only inclined to focus in the success stories of western models and to glorify failed ideology of the west. I sincerely thank Dr. gunasekara and Lankaweb for publishing these type of articles.

  7. AnuD Says:

    Here people are paying premium prices for organic – produce which we ate everyday in Sri Lanka. Now, Sri Lanka is having problems because of the excess use of pesticides and fertilizer. In other words, West is adopting our old methods and we are adopting the methods that west says, are not good anymore.

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