Shifting To Toxin Free Agriculture To Adapt To Climate Change

By Dawn Lee

Climate change impacts are felt across the globe. One of the key sectors under pressure is agriculture, which suffers losses and damage from adverse impacts including lack of rain, change of monsoon patterns, sudden floods and droughts; but it is also part of the problem. The agricultural sector contributes to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions through the use of chemical fertiliser. Nitrogen fertiliser applied to the soil makes its way into the atmosphere as nitrogen oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.

To address both issues and tackle related challenges such as food security, there is a pressing need to shift from chemical based agriculture to toxin free agriculture. 

Adaptation and Agriculture

Professor Buddhi Marambe from the University of Peradeniya, Chair of the Expert Committee on Adaption said, “Adaptation is an important aspect when addressing climate change. In this agriculture plays a key role. When adapting, we also need to keep in mind sustainable development.”

“The recently launched national programme on Toxin Free Agriculture in Sri Lanka is a really good example of the country moving towards low-external input sustainable agriculture,” he said, speaking at an event organised by SLYCAN Trust to update stakeholders and generate discussion on adaptation in agriculture.

The three-year programme is aimed at curbing the use of agrochemicals and encourages farmers to focus instead on using locally produced organic fertilisers. Apart from implications for the climate, this shift would prevent key produce such as rice, vegetables and fruits from being tainted by toxic agrochemicals. 

Toxin Free Agriculture Policy

Chairman of Strategic Enterprise Management Agency, Sri Lanka Mr. Asoka Abeygunawardena, highlighted the transformative impact of policy and the importance of getting it right for sustainable agriculture. 

“This is a three year programme which seeks to address the food security issue, as well as the toxin based agriculture issues in Sri Lanka. The farmers are provided awareness creation, and capacity building as well as resources to change from toxin based agriculture to organic and healthy agriculture.”

He added, “Organic farmers no longer miss out on subsidies that were available to other farmers who use chemical fertilisers. They get subsidies too, and a guaranteed price per kilo for toxin-free traditional seed varieties,” he said, on efforts to increase organic and toxin-free production in the country. 

Focusing on National & International Level

Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Climate Action Network South Asia, Ms. Vositha Wijenayake said, “Now, more than ever, there exists the will to change and the understanding of why there is a need to shift from toxin based, emission increasing agriculture to climate friendly agriculture. Last year’s universal adoption of the development and climate change agendas supports this. What we need to do is to ensure that this momentum is harnessed for change that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

SLYCAN Trust working on climate change in Sri Lanka, heads a project in the Trincomalee region that aims to build capacity among farmers to make the switch to toxic-free agriculture. 

Programme Coordinator, Mr. Kavindu Ediriweera explained, “it is important for farmers to understand that there is an alternate option to chemical fertilizer based farming. Many do not use organic and toxin free agriculture mainly because they don’t have the sufficient technical knowledge to implement it. The workshops are designed to address this need, and to encourage farmers to move towards organic and crop diversified farming.”