Saubhagye Dekma - Army takes the lead | Sunday Observer

Saubhagye Dekma - Army takes the lead

19 January, 2020

Sri Lanka once called the ‘granary of the East’ can date back its paddy cultivation to 161 BC. With rice being the staple food in the country great importance has always been attached to its cultivation. Nearly 34 percent of the cultivated land in Sri Lanka bears the golden crop. However, for a number of years paddy cultivation and agriculture itself which once flourished on the island has been on the decline for various reasons. Led by the country’s youth paddy cultivation is seeing a period of revival as a movement to cultivate fallow paddy fields has spread across the country.

This week in a bid to support this movement, the Sri Lanka Army began with harrowing a 12-acre fallow paddy field it owns in the vicinity of its new Headquarters in Akuregoda, Battaramulla. The program was launched as the second phase of the Army’s Thuru Mithuru Nawa Ratak - eco-friendly beautifying, afforestation and re-harvesting project which was launched in December led by its Commander and Acting Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva. The ploughing of the paddy field began after the observance of age-old traditional rituals linked to paddy farming which was attended by the Commander.

“In recent times we saw the youth in this country leading the way to cultivate fallow paddy fields,” he said at the event adding that this movement made the Army decide to re-cultivate the 12-acre plot which has been long abandoned. The project has been put into action through the Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock according to the Commander. “We are engaging in these projects in addition to the Army’s primary duties. We consider this as a service to the country as well,” the Commander said. Following the ploughing, the Army will sow several indigenous types of paddy in the field.

In addition, a patch of the same marshy land is expected to be utilised to grow organic vegetables as part of the project. Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock in close cooperation with local state agencies has already selected the plot for this purpose in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and other state agencies, sources from the Army said.

Meanwhile, the Commander also expressed the Army’s willingness to assist members of the public seeking to support the movement and cultivate abandoned paddy fields in their area. “If they request our help, and if it is the kind of support the Army can provide without a hindrance to their regular duties, then we will do so through Army platoons in the area,” he said.

As part of the day’s events, the Army also planted 140 saplings of endemic trees including Mee, Karanda and Kobo Neela. During the first phase of the program in December, the Army planted 170 frangipani saplings to beautify the 1.5 km stretch from Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha leading to the Sri Lanka Army Headquarters located within the newly constructed Defence Complex.

According to the Army, the program has been launched inspired by the government’s environment-friendly Green Project concept to plant trees and establish urban forests, green paths, green roofs and agroforestry systems as set out in the Saubhagye Dekma policy statement.The Army will also continue to expand its beautification and reforestation parts of the project. Army establishments islandwide will be expected to commence their own tree growing and beautification projects in their respective areas.

“We have given instructions to camps across the country to plant trees and do their part to beautify this country,” the Commander said. According to the Army, they will be advised to especially focus on growing trees useful for the public, such as fruit, herbal and rare saplings.

“We hope to set an example for the country and urge the people to also do things that are beneficial to the country,” Silva said.

Pix By Rukmal Gamage