COLOMBO – Citi Foundation has joined hands with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sri Lanka to pledge its 70 million rupee contribution, with a primary focus on the diversification of agricultural livelihoods; from paddy to cash crops such as cowpea and mung beans under uncultivated minor irrigation tanks, to not only boost stagnant cultivation activities, but to ensure food security and increase farmer income for economic recovery.
In April 2022, a nationally represented survey conducted by UNICEF Sri Lanka showed that 70% of households have reduced their food consumption, primarily due to the rising cost of food and that 73% of households have had their incomes either curtailed or reduced. The ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka has heavily affected the health and food sectors in the country, with severe medical and food supply shortages, availability of basic pharmaceuticals and overall health and wellbeing continuing to be significantly affected. The current crisis has limited the capacity of the country to grow paddy, leaving the resource poor farmers with less or no option to recover.
To address this pressing need, UNDP with grant support from the Citi Foundation, hopes to expand and diversify otherwise narrow livelihood opportunities through income generation, capacity building for upward mobility and economic recovery, by addressing the current drop in production. The grant investment from Citi Foundation will benefit 5,200 vulnerable farmers identified as having limited resources to cultivate 2,600 acres of uncultivated land. Farmers will be provided with opportunities for diversification to cash crops such as cowpea and mung beans for early Maha upland cultivation, which will yield a market rate of LKR 870 and 1050 per kilo respectively for their harvests, boosting farmers’ expected income by LKR 150,000 for 2.5 months, with a total income increase of LKR 780,000,000. This will also have positive ripple effects on the families of the farmers amounting to approximately 23,400 individuals. The intervention will have an ongoing-evaluation process, to monitor progress and to ensure transparent processes are followed throughout the distribution cycle.
Speaking on the role of Citi Foundation, Ravin Basnayake, Managing Director, Citi Country Office – Sri Lanka noted that Citi Foundation plays a critical role in tackling some of the most pressing challenges globally, working together on social, economic and environmental fronts. “The Foundation’s longstanding support to UNDP is a testament to this, and the contribution towards empowering and supporting vulnerable farmers at a time of crisis is vital to boost food security and improve better living standards for all,” he added.
The effects of the climate crisis are further compounded by the socio-economic crisis with food and energy price shocks, a fuel and energy crisis, shortages of essential items in many sectors including agriculture, disruptions to the agriculture value chains and increasingly rigid import restrictions being some of the many complications. Sri Lanka is expected to face over a 60% drop in crop production this Yala cultivation season which will decline farmers’ income to half, creating a cascading effect during the next Maha cultivation season growing the current socio-economic crisis to its worse end.
Speaking on the partnership, Malin Herwig, Officer in Charge, UNDP in Sri Lanka said that though Sri Lanka is a primarily self-sufficient agricultural country, many communities are affected by the reduction in food consumption, with resource-poor farmer communities who are vulnerable to climatic and economic shocks in the Dry Zone being severely impacted. “It is therefore crucial that we invest in preventing further exacerbation of the current economic hardships, and the partnership with Citi Foundation will create a double effect of supporting both farmers and getting crop to market, addressing some of these pressing issues in both the short and long-term,” she emphasized.
UNDP in Sri Lanka’s ‘Individual and Private Sector Giving Facility for Emergency Relief’ was established to facilitate interested private sector organizations and individuals to boost food production, address medical shortages and contribute towards urgent crisis relief in the country. Hemas Holdings PLC, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company, Brandix Apparel Limited, Daraz Sri Lanka and Citi Foundation have come on board to pledge their commitment and support vulnerable communities affected by the socio-economic crisis.
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