The Asian Development Bank has pledged to assist in developing Smart Agriculture in Mahaweli Zones in a positive move made over a request made by Minister of Irrigation, Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

Accordingly, ADB has pledged to provide US$ 8 million to introduce modern technology in the field of agriculture and livestock in the Mahaweli Zones.

During a recent discussion with the ADB officials held at her office, Minister Wanniarachchi requested ADB to assist financially and to provide new technology to the youth as they are keen on smart agricultural industry.

Subsequently, ADB pledged to assist in this venture as it would increase productivity. Addressing the top officials at the ministry yesterday (14), the Minister said that ADB financial aid is a victory for the Mahaweli farming community.

The Minister said that the aim of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is to encourage farming communities to produce essential food within the country itself to meet the local demand of food in the face of the prevailing economic difficulties. She said that therefore, modernization of agriculture would help increase food production in the country.

The Minister who pointed out that the young farmers of Mahaweli zones prefer to engage in smart agriculture and said that by facilitating them through providing the much needed support in that regard, their income can be increased by 200 percent.

She further said that she would implement a targeted programme to export the Mahaweli produce and earn foreign exchange in the future.

Ministry Secretary Saman Darshana Pandikorala, Director General of Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority, Engineer Sunil Perera and several other top officials participated in this meeting.

The amount of US $ 8 million provided by the Asian Development Bank will belong to Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority, under the Mahaweli Water Security Investment Programme which comes under the Ministry of Irrigation, and a work plan has been introduced regarding how to spend the money.

Accordingly, US $ 4 million will be utilized for the development of milk production in the Mahaweli regions, US $ 2.5 million for smart agriculture food production such as poly tunnel and drip Irrigation and US $ 1.5 million for poultry farming and freshwater fishing industry respectively.

There are 12,940 milk farmers in the Mahaweli Zones and they produced 54.8 million litres of fresh milk last year. The fresh milk production is expected to be increased up to 70 million litres under this programme.

Under the proposed export directed cultivation programme, 1,300 farming families in Mahaweli regions will be selected, and each family will be directed to cultivate chilies in quarter acre polytunnels provided for each family unit, and steps will be taken to provide the necessary infrastructure.

Further, the Mahaweli Authority states that the egg production is expected to be increased to 100 million this year from 62 million last year. Shortage of Poultry food and chicks is a major stumbling block in the industry, and the ministry expects to find positive answers to them by using the funds provided by the ADB.

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