COLOMBO – The United States officially handed over 9,300 metric tonnes of urea fertilizer to the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday (5), to be distributed to more than 193,000 smallholder paddy farmers in Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Monaragala districts.
The fertilizer, procured by FAO with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is the first shipment of USAID-supported fertilizer assistance, with additional supplies anticipated in the coming months that will reach close to one million farmers across the country.
“This fertilizer, provided by the American people, will help Sri Lankan farmers to keep countless Sri Lankan families fed in the months ahead,” US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, speaking at a handover event held at the Colombo port.
“I know that fertilizer alone will not meet all of Sri Lanka’s needs, but this assistance is just one aspect of the United States’ much greater investment in and support for the people and government of Sri Lanka at this challenging time,” she added, noting that in total, the US has announced over $240 million in new assistance and additional loans for small businesses over the last year. Assuring that the US will keep at it, she said assistance like the fertilizer grant demonstrates America’s goodwill and true commitment to the people of Sri Lanka.
Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Amaraweera highlighting that Sri Lankan paddy farmers were capable of feeding the country, said the government was working to ensure they have the inputs needed to support their livelihood and strengthen the food security of the country. He thanked the US government and FAO for their support in ensuring that vulnerable farmers receive essential fertilizer free of charge.
A statement from the US embassy in Sri Lanka said the United States, through USAID, had provided $46 million in funding to procure essential fertilizer to increase paddy production and avert a food crisis – a portion of which arrived on Monday. It said the funding will also provide cash assistance to small-holder farmers who have suffered due to low yields over the last two agricultural seasons and on account of the prevailing economic crisis.
The statement also noted that the USAID and its partners have mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate their work, ensuring that assistance reaches its intended recipients and benefits the vulnerable farming households.
Änjali Kaur, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Asia Bureau who is currently visiting Sri Lanka, said the agency was delivering on a commitment it had made to reach small-holder paddy farmers with much-needed fertilizer during the planting season to increase their yield and harvests. “This is part of our support to Sri Lankans during this complex emergency to ensure they lead healthier and more productive lives,” she added.
“As FAO, we believe that saving livelihoods saves lives, Vimlendra Sharan, Country Director, FAO, said, noting that the 9,300 tonnes of Urea procured through USAID will ensure smallholder farmers take to productive agriculture practices and are able to meet their food and nutrition requirements in these extremely difficult days the country faces. He thanked the US Government for its support in the endeavour and said he look forward to working with USAID in taking Sri Lankan agriculture forward.
Monday’s handover ceremony was attended by the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung; Sri Lanka’s Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Amaraweera; USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia, Anjali Kaur; FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Vimlendra Sharan; and USAID Mission Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives, Gabriel Grau.
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