Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of the Sri Lankan economy and though its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) declined substantially during last two decades, it is the most important source of employment for the majority of the Sri Lankans consisting 2.6 million workforce. However, most of the individuals do struggle to find their way to cultivate due to many reasons including limited financial resources, unfavorable weather patterns and lack of guidance which leads to younger generation move away from Agriculture and seek job opportunities elsewhere. Being a supportive sector for the mainstream crop production, cultivation for seeds or seedlings is one such area which has been affected severely due to lack of incentives for the smallholder farmers to be engaged in seed production as the sector is predominately dominated by importation of hybrid seeds to the country by few major players creating an oligopoly. Even though the government has taken several measure to promote the industry such as establishment of Seed Task Force (STF) to develop strategies, launch national seed production programs, initiation of Public-Private partnerships especially with foreign principles to initiate local hybrid seeds production, country still lacks the favorable environment where farmers could engage in seed production as a sustainable income generation activity. In such circumstances, National Agribusiness Development Program (NADeP) under the assistance of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has initiated a revolutionized producer-public-private partnership (4P) with LandMark Agro Seeds Pvt. Ltd. which is a 100% local seeds production company with the objective of retaining smallholder farmers in the sector and to promote local seeds production.
Partnership has benefited 350 smallholder farmers in 5 districts namely Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Kurunagala, Nuwaraleiya and Hambanthaota with the assistance for on farm productivity through irrigation support (Sprinkler kits and water pumps), and plant support structures (Trellis) and farmers safety is prioritized by providing safety kits and battery operated sprayers for fertilizer application on individual basis. However, the unique feature of this partnership is the nuclear farm established at “Mahawa” in Kurunagala District together with “Panwawa” seeds producers’ organization. Seeds producers have faced many difficulties in this area prior to the intervention especially with the lack of water lead many individuals to leave the industry and even the survivors found it difficult to compete with the imported hybrid seeds. Partnership has identified these issues during the feasibility study prior to the intervention and the private sector involved actively by developing a suitable land for the farm with the active participation of the organization. Members of the organization were allowed to cultivate 0.25 acres of land under the direct supervision of the company by providing inputs and the much needed technology to improve the quality as well as the quantity of their produce with the security of market where company purchase the entire harvest on predetermined price after reducing the material cost.
In addition, priority was given for the post-harvest practices as the market desired quality is mainly depend on the proper post-harvest practices which gives an extra edge for the beneficiaries to market their produce. The knowledge on proper post-harvest processing is critical to maximize yield, longevity, vigor, and overall quality of the seed crop and the partnership has identified the importance of harvesting at maturity, optimum threshing level, cleaning and drying before storage and intervened at each stages collectively by providing seed extractor machines, dryers and cold room on common basis. Even the company has gone to an extent to convert the facility in to a training hub by providing periodic training sessions to beneficiaries as well as to the nearby farmers in the area with practical demonstrations conducted by beneficiaries themselves.
Share farming (Nuclear) concept shows the different avenue of workability of 4P model and it gives further opportunity for the stakeholders to work together and derive mutual benefits and risks. Further, it provides an ideal platform to disseminate technology from private sector to smallholder farmers and even to adopt the technology under one roof. As the name implies, it was a landmark for the LandMark Agro Seeds Pvt. Ltd. history of operation and they are planning to take the same model to other areas of the country with the success and learnings possibly with further assistance from IFAD under newly launched Smallholder Agribusiness Partnerships (SAPP) Programme during the year 2018.