Divi Neguma for a strong resilient economy
Divi Neguma is a multi pronged and holistic programme to develop our
rural economy, reduce poverty, address malnutrition, move to healthy
farming techniques. If the programme is successful, Sri Lanka will not
only have a strong independent economy, more resistant to external
pressures but also a healthy and nutritious society by 2016, said
Additional Secretary A. A. K. Ranawaka (Rural economy) Economic
Development Ministry during an interview with the Daily News.
Q: Can you explain the concept behind
A: ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya
Idiri Dekma’ the policy ‘statement of the government states a prosperous
village will be created by 2016.’ Based on this target, the President
announced that one million domestic economic units will be created in
2011 through the Budget speech (Nov. 2010).
Independence, self reliance is the key to a prosperous village. Meeting
one’s own needs was a hallmark of a classic Sri Lankan village.
The primary aim is to guarantee food security, connect the household
with the national economy and create self-sufficiency.
It will lead to a healthy diet, decrease malnutrition level in the
county. We also want to reduce the use of chemical fertilizer and
pesticides and move toward more healthy agricultural techniques.
There is also a need to develop the rural economy and reduce poverty
levels. This can be done at the first instance by reducing household
expenses, then by connecting the home economic unit with the national
economy providing a source of income to the household.
‘Divi Neguma’ programme is the machinery or the pathway to achieving
Q: There are many different aspects
to Divi Neguma; food security, nutrition, economic development. What is
A: If you compare Sri
Lanka to a developed country, our vegetable consumption is very low.
It’s about 125g per day whereas in a developed country it’s about 330g
per day. It is the same with fruits. This effects health, our nutrition.
So Divi Neguma wants to increase the consumption of vegetables for
At the same time it wants to encourage the home garden concept to
produce these vegetables. One reason is, this will reduce the use of
harmful chemical fertilizer, the other is to reduce the financial burden
on the household. Excess produce can be sold in the market to earn extra
This will create food security; more food will be available,
affordability will improve.
Divi Neguma aims are interconnected, so all the aims are important;
poverty alleviation, food security, self-sufficiency, better nutrition,
food free of poison.
Q: How did you go from the concept of
the ‘prosperous village’ to the ‘Divi Neguma’ programme?
A: After the Budget speech
in November 2010, it fell upon the Economic Development Ministry to
achieve this target - ‘a prosperous village’.
From the very beginning, 23 ministries and their agencies helped
create Divi Neguma. Three sub committees were created at the national
level to create a national policy to; increase domestic production,
replace imports with local produce, increasing consumption in three
sectors, namely the Agricultural Sector, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries,
Senior Ministers Athauda Seneviratne, Milroy Fernando, A. H. M.
Fowzie headed the three respective sub committees.
Ministry of Finance and Planning and the Ministry of Public
Administration and Home Affairs also assisted.
Q: Apart from the 23 ministries that
are involved in Divi Neguma, who actually run its activities on a
A: We have a mechanism
from National Level to the Village Level, it includes provincial
organizations, District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries.
The main officials involved are four village level helpers, namely;
Grana Niladari, Samurdhi Officer, Agricultural Research Officer and the
Family Health Midwife.
Last year, these officers were tasked with finding 25 suitable
individuals from the village to participate in ‘Divi Neguma’. They act
as the eyes and ears on the ground since they have regular contact with
the people on a day-to-day basis. They monitor the progress.
The entire workforce of Divi Neguma consists of 50,000 public
servants from the 23 government ministries, including 30,000 Samurdhi
Q: What is the work being done under
A: The first phase began
in March 2011. We handed out seeds and plants of five types of
vegetables on two occasions last year. Our initial target was to reach
one million households. However we were able to connect with 2.1 million
households to Divi Neguma.
We planted one million coconut saplings. Fruit plants like Rambutan,
Papay, Pineapple and cashew were given to people to farm.
Over 300,000 chicks were distributed to households with 10 per
household and 800 milch cows were given out. Various fisheries projects
were started. For example breeding ornamental fish, fresh water fish,
pond fish and drying fish. About 1,500 people received bicycle boxes for
The purpose of handing out the vegetable plants was that people could
grow vegetables for their own consumption. Secondly, if they had a
surplus they could sell that.
Milch cows and chicken were handed out with the aim of both
increasing domestic production and also to provide a source of income to
the people involved.
Then well assisted people to engage in an industry that will allow
them to earn an extra income. Divi Neguma encourages people to make some
kind of product with the use of the raw materials and skills from the
local surroundings. We want to promote domestic industries and
entrepreneurs e.g. making coconut oil, incense etc.
Q: You said that over two million
people received plants and seeds. Were these locally purchased?
A: In 2011 the
Agricultural Department, Small Crops Export Department and some private
institutions provided seeds. Some of the seeds were imported.
However we constructed 3,000 plant nurseries last year under the Divi
Neguma programme. So from this year onward the seeds and plants required
will be produced in Sri Lanka itself.
Q: How does Divi Neguma work to
develop local industries?
A: We held seven
industrial exhibitions last year in seven districts. This year there
will be 18 exhibitions held in the other 18 districts.
At the exhibition we recognize people who are suitable to engage in
industrial activities. We provide them with capital for them to begin
their enterprise up to 50 percent of the expenses. The other half of the
expenses are born by the entrepreneur.
The Regional Development Bank, Samurdhi Bank and other commercial
banks provide loans to those who cannot find the 50 percent required to
start their business. We will be conducting awareness programmes from
this year to provide the technical knowledge required by those who
engage in an industry. Technical training institutions like NARA will
assist in this.
We want to assist those who have started a successful industrial
activity by providing the knowledge required by them.
Q: What is happening under Divi
Neguma in 2012?
A: The target for 2012 is
to reach 4.9 million households in Sri Lanka through Divi Neguma. We
want to provide vegetable seeds, plants, fruit trees or coconut saplings
to every family in the country to start their own home garden.
In addition, people with Ľ acres to 2.5 acres of land will get
assistance to grow something at a commercial level e.g. pineapple,
papaya, banana, lemon, ginger, turmeric, Karapincha, Kankun, types of
potatoes etc. Divi Neguma will provide seeds/plants, fertilizer, tools
as well as the technical knowledge required for this task.
Budget 2012 called for halting the import five items of food; Mungata,
Undu, Sesame, Corn and Peanuts. The domestic production of these items
will be increased through Divi Neguma to realise this target.
Milk production is expected to increase from 20 percent to 35 percent
of the national requirement by the end of the year.
Q: What has been the reaction to Divi
Neguma from participants so far?
A: The reaction has been
very positive. A lot of people are looking after their home gardens
well. Most people are expecting to use their harvest for domestic use.
Some people have gone well beyond with what Divi Neguma had provided.
They have found their own plants and seeds. They have collected
knowledge from others, spent a lot of time and energy to create their
home gardens in an exceptional manner.
However a few people have not even bothered to plant the seeds that
were given, others have not looked after their crops well.
On the industrial side some people have faced difficulties in getting
bank loans. People have complained about difficulties faced in filling
forms, providing securities and even about the rude customer service at
A lot of people have expressed an interest in engage in animal
Q: Has Divi Neguma been successful so
A: There is definite
evidence of success already. For example when world food prices had been
on the rise, our prices have remained relatively stable and low since
the middle of last year. The cost of some items such as eggs have been
The real benefits of Divi Neguma like food security, self reliance
and better nutrition will take a longer time to realize, but the signs
that Divi Neguma is having an impact is already evident.
Q: Any specific areas which need
A: The monitoring of the
programme is done by the four village level officers. Every recipient
household has a diary to record their expenses. This information/data
should get collected at village level and travel up to the national
level (through the Divisional Secretariat and District Secretariat).
There is a need for better monitoring. For example to identify
industries which need assistance or to identify home gardeners who may
need more information. There has to be a better follow up on the
progress being made by the Divi Neguma recipients.
As I said before we need to provide people with more technical
knowledge. For example to encourage people to switch from chemical
fertilizer to organic fertilizer is not easy. But conducting awareness
programmes can be helpful to convince people to make the change.