Sri Lanka and IFAD partner to reduce poverty and food insecurity


COLUMBIA, Missouri – Sri Lanka and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are working together to promote the island’s agricultural economy. IFAD, established in the 1970s, has collaborated with Sri Lanka on more than 16 projects to reduce poverty levels. This has helped the country achieve middle income country status, but many Sri Lankans still face malnutrition and unequal wages. Sri Lanka and IFAD are now teaming up to create the Smallholder Agribusiness and Resilience Project (SARP) to tackle poverty, food insecurity and gender inequalities.

What is SARP?

Sri Lanka and IFAD have teamed up to develop the SARP to specifically promote rural development. The project was approved in 2019 and costs around $ 82 million. IFAD has allocated $ 42.76 million while national donors have provided $ 27.6 million. The World Food Program and the United Nations Development Program covered the remainder of the funding.

A total of 82% of all Sri Lankans live in rural areas and half of the impoverished population are rural farmers. The objective of the project is to reduce the poverty of smallholders and increase food security in the dry zone region. This will cover the lands of more than six districts, all located in the northwest region.

How SARP will reduce poverty

Sri Lanka and IFAD stressed that there will be three target groups: Extremely impoverished individuals, those with the potential to enter the market and small, commercially oriented farmers. SARP plans to strengthen community engagement through value chain development. The project indicates that around 75 agricultural business schools are expected to open and that innovative interventions will target youth unemployment.

Agrarian service centers and banks will turn into advisory and support facilities that will offer planning to farmers dealing with water management and agriculture. SARP will select 20 sites in six districts in order to improve their technical and financial situation. In addition, staff members will receive training to assess risk management and loan portfolio management for target groups.

How SARP will prevent food insecurity

Part of food insecurity goes hand in hand with poverty. Farmers who cannot afford to manage their land or crops cannot produce enough food. In turn, many of SARP’s poverty reduction efforts will ultimately improve food production levels. That said, Sri Lanka and IFAD still described several ways the SARP can promote better food and nutrition security.

IFAD estimates that in 2017, approximately 900,000 people in Sri Lanka had a diet below “limit food consumption levels”. Thus, 20% of Sri Lankans under 5 are classified as “stunted” and another “13% suffer from wasting”. It is one of the highest rates in the world.

One of SARP’s plans for agricultural development is to address sectoral challenges for smallholder farmers. As mentioned, the project intends to open and encourage agricultural business schools. This enables farmers to get better education on how to properly use fertilizers to reduce water and food contamination as well as the inappropriate use of agricultural technology and inadequate food safety measures. SARP will also tackle land fragmentation and low productivity.

Some other project objectives are to rehabilitate 260 water reservoirs to increase their retention capacity for irrigated farmers, to promote partnerships between farmers and the private sectors and to reduce production losses due to climatic events. It is expected that SARP beneficiaries will improve their food security by 80% and increase their income by 108%.

What SARP does for gender inequality

The project recognizes that Sri Lanka has already made great improvements in gender equality. However, he also points out that the island ranks “75 out of 149 countries” in terms of women’s rights. Notably, women represent 53% of the agricultural workforce, but only 30.2% participate in the labor market. This is because many women are not paid for their work because their wages are considered family work and go towards the household. If they are paid a salary, there is often a gender pay gap.

The SARP will integrate activities targeted towards women with the aim of empowering and promoting their rights. Agricultural business schools will need to consider and address the inclusion of women under the jurisdiction of the SARP. SARP will also provide grants and loans specifically to women to purchase goods and services for their farms. To ensure implementation, the project will monitor, measure and collect data on changes in gender norms and women’s access to resources.

Looking forward

Impoverished rural communities will always be a priority for Sri Lanka and IFAD. With SARP, the island and the institution can continue to promote economic prosperity, food security and gender equality.

Camdyn knox
Photo: Flickr

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