35 youths train Bio Food Company and research center on organic farming techniques
A sharp rise in chronic kidney disease has prompted Caritas in Kandy and Anuradhapura dioceses to introduce farmers and young people to the benefits of organic farming.
The rise in kidney disease in agricultural communities there has alarmed doctors, researchers and Caritas officials alike, all of whom are struggling to pinpoint the causes of the life-threatening illness.
“It’s an emerging health problem,” said Nalin Sampath, youth coordinator of Caritas Kandy.
In recent years farming regions across Sri Lanka have seen around 2,500 people die and over 40,000 hospitalized each year as a result of chronic kidney disease, according to Sampath.
Father Paaris Jayamaha, the head of Caritas Anuradhapura said the problem was quite severe in his diocese.
“There are currently 1,300 patients with chronic kidney disease receiving treatment, and almost 200 patients die of renal failure every year,” he said.
The most mystifying aspect of the problem, he added, is that most of those affected are male members of farming families - the bread winners.
From its research, the World Health Organization believes the cause is nitrogen in the water and the continued use of banned fertilizers, which the authorities do not seem to be addressing, he said.
Caritas agrees with the world health body’s assessment and have launched efforts to train farmers to go organic to turn the deadly tide.
Efforts in Anuradhapura, however, are struggling to get off the ground.
According to Father Jayamaha they can only conduct small-scale training sessions and seminars due to a lack of facilities but are starting to get their message across.
Caritas Kandy has been fortunate and is getting some expert help.
Earlier this month it selected 35 youths and took them to a 50-hectare organic farm and training center belonging to the Bio Food Company
to teach them organic farming techniques such as making compost and liquid fertilizers by using certain leaves that can easily be found in the region.
A documentary film highlighted possible dangers and bad effects caused by using chemicals on crops.
“The world is coming round to the fact that organic farming is better, while the use of fertilizers spoils the earth which brings bad consequences to all humanity,” said Upali Gamage, the head of the training center.
The youths also learned that drinking filtered water and using clay pots for storing water significantly reduced the risk of illness.
“Future generations must know these things and do their best to avoid using chemical fertilizers. It’s not easy to get across because people are used to chemicals and don’t realize that organic farming can provide good harvests,” said Sampath.
The youths said they were impressed with the training.
“We can almost double our yield, if we apply these techniques,” said 18-year-old Dimuthu Rasangika, whose father is a rice farmer.
It still remains to be seen, however, whether the natural farming methods they learned will bring the healthy results they are seeking in the future.
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