Healthy Horticulture for Wealthy Life – A Sri Lankan Scenario

Current Sri Lanka’s agricultural policy banned all forms of synthetic agrochemicals and fertilizers, therefore, inorganic farmers are moving towards organic for healthy horticulture production with the mandate of “toxin-free nation: healthy food for wealthy life”.

In Sri Lanka over 60 percent of the total population are involved in farming and 38 percent of the total workforce are farm labours, steadily declining the agriculture contribution to GDP. Horticulture plays an important role in providing livelihood to a larger portion of poor people, increases the level of national income and export revenue, generates new employment opportunities, increases farm income, and indirectly enhances the nutrition and health of the nation. There is a need to increase the healthy fruits and vegetable production by several folds with the gradual increase in population, increase in per capita income, and expansion of exports and tourism industry of the country. Today’s agriculture produces enough food for the global population, but it has not given everyone everywhere access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. Scaling-up of agroecological approaches can contribute to ensuring sustainable and resilient agricultural and food systems today and in future: assuring food security, environmental preservation, resilience to climate change, women’s empowerment, and increased peasants’ control over agrifood systems.

The tremendous contribution of small-scale agriculture and agroecological-based production systems to food security has been realized in the midst of scenarios of climate change, economic and energy crises in the last decade. Reports based on broad consultations with scientists and extensive researches evidenced that small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions like Asia and Africa by using agroecological methods already available.

In the world of organic production, Sri Lanka’s contribution is 2.5%. But in the last ten years, the growth of Sri Lankan organic agriculture extension increased by 216.4 %. Currently, 0.6 % of fruits and 0.2% of vegetables are produced organically.

Agroecological approaches for safe production of fruits and vegetables: motivation and assistance

Sri Lanka exports nearly 9000 tons of both fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, and 65% of the fresh products are targeted to the Middle East and the Maldivian market. Almost 100% of the processed products are exported to the European market. United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Maldives, India, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Germany, and Pakistan are the top fruits & vegetable importing countries from Sri Lanka. To maintain the international market standards and guarantee, Sri Lankan farmers should follow the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) while cultivating fruits and vegetables, if not, they will not be able to get ISO 22000 certificate, which stickily bind health & safety regulations stipulated by the European Community to export.

In the past decade, Sri Lanka lost its international market owing to the detection of trace chemicals in the exported fruits and vegetables. Moreover, in the recent past, the cancer and CKDU patient population has increased in Sri Lanka, with suspected root cause being overuse of synthetic agrochemicals. Therefore, since 2009, substantial awareness is being created among the farmers on the need to shift to organic agriculture/ Nature farming/ follow Nammalvar’s concept of organic farming etc. These were done through intensive workshops, exhibitions, and training organized by the Department of Agriculture, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), Organic Movement of North and East (OMNE) of Sri Lanka, Faculties of Agriculture under national universities of Sri Lanka, Lanka Organic Agriculture Movement (LOAM), the campaign of nature lovers, various media and public fora. In 2018, young organic entrepreneurs established model organic farms to train the farmers from time to time on how to incorporate ecological approaches while setting up organic farms.

Organic Movement of North and East (OMNE) promoting natural farming for production of healthy food wealthy life in Sri Lanka

In 2019 and 2020, the Organic Movement of North and East (OMNE) hosted ever climate change hackathon (Climathon) in Sri Lanka in association with local environmental activist’s groups, to enlighten the courses of climate change, and tactics need to be adopted to safeguard the water resources for sustainable food production. Moreover, the Department of Agriculture, Northern Sri Lanka organized island-wide tours and foreign tours especially to India, China, and Indonesia with the selected farmers who were willing to use cutting-edge technologies to uplift their organic farms to a commercial level. Information gathered in all these knowledge-sharing venues and techniques learned by the farmers have changed their mindset. They are turning away from chemical-intensive single-crop farming in favour of production methods based on agroecological approaches. There is growing evidence of agroecological farming systems in Sri Lanka which will keep carbon in the ground, support biodiversity, rebuild soils, and sustain yields, providing a basis for secure livelihoods. All these eco-friendly approaches will assist to restore our ecosystem as per the mandate of the UN decade (2020-2030) of Ecosystem Restoration. The food sovereignty and security will be met by the production of healthy horticulture using environmentally friendly and socially equitable technologies and methods, in a world with a shrinking arable land base, increasingly limited supplies of water and nitrogen, and within a scenario of a rapidly changing climate, social unrest, and economic uncertainty. UN mission on International Year of Plant Health 2020 and the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables in 2021 provides an opportunity to promote healthy diets for adequate nutrition while eliminating hunger, reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and boosting economic development in the COVID-19 pandemic scenario.

Demand pull vs supply push scenario for organic fruits and vegetables

In Sri Lanka, there is a huge demand for healthy vegetables and fruits. The demand is steadily increasing owing to the bitter experience of human health hazards and awareness. But the problem is vegetables and fruits produced through organic practices are costly, therefore, this is affordable to the higher income group of 20% of the total population of Sri Lanka for daily consumption. Therefore, government and non-governmental organizations are promoting organic home gardening with financial incentives and technical assistance to meet the household demand and excess production is being marketed through the specially established organic markets and sales centers around the department of agricultural extension centers, supermarkets, and the special fresh organic products sales centers called “Ankadi”. Medical professionals, extension staff of the Department of Agriculture, and members of OMNE play a major role in directing organic lovers who are health conscious towards these markets.

Angadi: A unique market to sell pure organic fruits and vegetables

In contrast, commercial organic growers who are the following GAP are targeting export markets to get 20% more premium to the organic products compared to the similar non-organic horticulture products. Some of the nationally renounced supermarket owners and exporters eg: Keels supper, Cargills, CIC, Lankem PLC, and many other private exporters (Eg: Tropical Health Foods (Pvt) Ltd, Sunfrost (Pvt) Ltd, Saraketha Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, etc.) established collection centers in two or three places in every district and are collecting the fresh vegetables and fruits using their standard quality control criteria. Moreover, Dambulla Dedicated Economic Centre plays a major role to individual producers who can sell their products in wholesale market to exporters. For meeting the requirement of the organic export sector in Sri Lanka, certification is carried out by foreign certification agencies like SKAL, Netherlands; IMO, Switzerland; EcoCert, Germany etc. At present, there is no government regulatory authority to handle inspection and certification in the country. LOAM (Lanka Organic Agricultural Movement), Export Development Board, and the Department of Export Agriculture have been engaging in promoting exports. For many years, and with great success, the private sector alone has developed the concepts and markets for healthy organic horticulture products.

How to get premium profit?: Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and certification

To facilitate the production of quality and healthy fruits and vegetables and to fulfill the standard marketing compliance, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has developed the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) in collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC). To address the problems and accelerate trade of Sri Lankan fruits and vegetables, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Sri Lanka organized more than 40 Islandwide training and awareness programs for more than 900 farmers and exporters with a special focus on good agricultural practices (GAP) and other relevant Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS), pest and disease prevention, business, and finance from 14 districts in the country. Now, the farmers who follow the GAP are being evaluated carefully and certified for export.

To promote farm productivity by implementing innovative new technologies and training events, many NGOs for example, USAID and Chemonics are partnering on the Supporting Opportunities in Livelihoods Development (SOLID) project, which trains farm households in the northern and eastern regions of the country on improved agricultural practices and new technologies. The project focuses on providing training for value chains in the dairy and horticulture sectors. 2,100 dairy and horticulture farmers from northern and eastern Sri Lanka have been benefited from this support.

Since 2016, $58.63 million worthy Agriculture Sector Modernization Project (ASMP), the fund received from the International Development Agency (IDA) of the World Bank, has been implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Government of Sri Lanka in five provinces and seven districts: Northern province (Jaffna and Mullaitivu), Northcentral province (Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa), Eastern Province (Batticaloa), Central Province (Matale) and Uva province (Monaragala). Through this five-year project, smallholder farmers have been trained to produce competitive high-value agricultural products, improve their ability to respond to market needs and access domestic and international markets, and become sustainable market participants.

Pipeline for a successful Healthy Horticulture

National policy on digital horticulture:  Agricultural modernization vs exclusion of agrochemicals

Besides the recently imposed import ban policy on synthetic agrochemicals (fertilizers and pesticides), the president of Sri Lanka has also initiated to increase the production of organic inputs by opening new small to large scale organic inputs production and marketing units by providing financial assistance. This has further strengthened the scope of production of healthy fruits and vegetables. To motivate and attract farmers towards organic agriculture, the government of Sri Lanka provides Rs 12,500 as financial incentives to farmers who are cultivating fruits and vegetables organically. The President of Sri Lanka further announced that organic fertilizer will be provided in lieu of the concessionary fertilizer package for farmers.

Like developed countries, private companies play a major role in introducing new cutting-edge technologies to modernize the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka. “Govi Mithuru” (in Sinhala) or “Ulavar Tholan” (in Tamil) is one of the pioneering ground-breaking services introduced in Sri Lanka in 2015 by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine of Sri Lanka and the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International with the collaboration of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded GSMA AgriTech Programme to provide customized and timely advice to farmers regarding land preparation, cultivation, crop protection, harvest, and nutrition security. Moreover, largest Multi-National Companies (MNCs) like CIC PLC and Hayleys Agriculture Holdings introduce agriculture drones, automated farm implements, giving training, loan services, and financial assistance to purchase these innovative technologies to maintain “smart agriculture practices,” to get high profit with the collaboration of DOA.

Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture plays a major role in implementing Digital Agriculture. With the ABD funding, DOA has already initiated several e-agriculture programs called interactive ICT and mobile platforms and software applications to disseminate information to achieve agricultural goals by harnessing information and communications technology (ICT).


Altieri, M.A., Funes-Monzote, F.R. & Petersen, P. Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: contributions to food sovereignty. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 32, 1–13 (2012).

Weerakkody W.A.P., Mawalagedera S.M.M.R. (2020) Recent Developments in Vegetable Production Technologies in Sri Lanka. In: Marambe B., Weerahewa J., Dandeniya W. (eds) Agricultural Research for Sustainable Food Systems in Sri Lanka. Springer, Singapore.

Dr. Kandiah Pakeerathan

Dr. Kandiah Pakeerathan

Head and Senior Lecturer,

Department of Agricultural Biology,

Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jaffna, 44000,

Ariviyal Nagar, Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka



Recently Published Articles

Women-led farm initiatives

Women-led farm initiatives

By using organic farming methods, developing connections with markets, generating income, and enhancing their own...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This