Land mismanagement continues to produce hunger
by Melani Manel Perera

The 2021 Global Hunger Index ranks Sri Lanka as a country with a “moderate” risk of hunger. One of the problems is farmland management. Anthony Jesudasan notes that 37,000 hectares have not yet to be distributed among young Tamils.


Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka continues to hold one of the lowest positions in 2021 Global Hunger Index, which covers 116 countries.

The level of hunger and food insecurity in the Asian country is defined as "moderate” at present. This is an improvement over reports from previous years when the situation was considered “alarming”. 

Yet, despite improved hunger indicators, stunting in children under five has increased over the past year due to malnutrition.

Hunger is an old problem in Sri Lanka, which is closely linked to government land management and agri-food administration, this according to many observers.

“The leaders of the country have divided up farmland and sold it to the world (other countries or businesses) for a commission,” said Aruna Seelarathana, a farmer from Anuradhapura district, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Thousands of acres of land across Sri Lanka have now been taken over by the country's political leaders. If people were allowed to farm that land, Sri Lanka would not have to deal with the problem of hunger today.”

K. Ariyapala, another local farmer, holds the same view. In addition to the lack of farmland, he laments that “there is no way of getting fertilisers, agrochemicals, seeds and water in a timely manner.”

In his view, when “the material required for farming is not available in time, farming is useless. Not having the required background to do our job means that not only farmers have to starve but that the whole country has to starve.”.

According to Anthony Jesudasan, who chairs the Voice of Plantation People organisation, the lack of land affects disproportionately the Tamil minority.

“In order to strengthen the food production process, a survey was conducted in the hill region in 2013, which identified 57,000 hectares of virgin land that could be farmed; 37,000 destined for young Tamils. To date, nothing has been done,” he told AsiaNews.

Emphasising Sri Lankans’ right to land, Jesudasan noted that there is no future without food sovereignty and that the right to food should be recognised by governments without discrimination.

Political leaders should put in place “measures that facilitate the process of food production and give land to everyone in Sri Lanka.”

In such a situation, “We need to look to the future with confidence in the hope that the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved by 2030 and bear fruit now in terms of food security and sustainable agriculture”.