Sri Lanka could tap new World Bank agriculture aid, new strategy promised

WASHINGTON, Oct 21, 2007 (LBO) – The World Bank is putting up new money for agriculture development in rural areas but is promising not to repeat past mistakes that sowed small holder-based entrenched poverty in countries like Sri Lanka. In the 1980’s Sri Lanka embarked on a sweeping agricultural development drive building massive reservoirs and irrigating thousands of acres by cutting down vast swathes of forest cover with multilateral agency and donor government aid.

Two decades later farmers who got small plots of government lands are struggling to eke out a living out of the land to which they do not even have freehold title.

Mistakes

Meanwhile rainfall is not enough to sustain water intensive rice farming for the promised two seasons a year with some environmentalists partially blaming depleted forest cover for the volatile weather patterns.

“I think that in the eighties and the early nineties, we really didn’t do as good a job as we might have of integrating social and environmental concerns into programs, into agriculture programs and into infrastructure programs,” Kathy Sierra, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.

“I think we have learned a lot since then.”