After my recent travels to the north of the country, I have finally managed to eek out some time to download a bunch of photos of the various places I visited.
I remember it had been a real early start and after a few hours in the car, we were ready for breakfast. We pulled over to one of the Traditional Food Centres dotted around the North. These centres are operated by women’s co-operatives who mostly grow and always prepare the food. Based on the traditional northern fare, they do a brisk trade with people on their way to work and school – either picking up breakfast like us, or picking up ‘rice and curry’ packets for lunch. This particular food centre just outside of Vavuniya was set up with assistance from the EU.
The food was delicious! Not a coffee to be had there though 😦
Rice and curry is a lunchtime staple. It’s made up of a rice base with two vegetable curries, a sambol and either fish or meat. The outlets that serve rice and curry are usually hole-in-the-wall type places and sometimes you get a choice, other times you just get what they have made that day.
I’ve been sharing a rice and curry lunch with Maheshie whenever we have not got our act together to bring in our lunch from home. At lkr 400 / $3.50 divided by 2, that’s a cheap lunch! And no, we have never been sick. In Jaffna, the price is even cheaper at lkr 250 and that serving could feed three people!
The heirloom rice Grantee I am working with, have introduced an additional crop to spread out the farmer’s income more evenly throughout the year. Growing organic pomegranates is relatively easy for these farmers and as we made our way out to some paddy fields (dry and the seed paddy not yet sown because of the drought), we took a quick detour to the white pomegranate under cultivation.
White pomegranate is a different variety and much sweeter than the red ones you are used to seeing.
The farmers apply traditional methods to control pesticides.
Although this container is a 5L plastic water bottle, it has been re-used and filled with a concoction of water, ginger, chilli and lemons and if memory serves me right, some jaggary too (to sweeten it up). The pests are then attracted to the concoction and stay clear of ripening fruit.
Another additional crop that farmers are growing is brinjal. Brinjal are from the eggplant family and look more like the long Japanese eggplants than the French aubergine variety.
Brinjal is served at almost every meal as far as I can see, a very popular vegetable. The farmers can sell their brinjal harvest for lkr 20 per kg but brinjal is sold to consumers in the stores for lkr 80 per kg. Someone is making money somewhere along the supply chain, and it ain’t the farmers. My Grantee is also looking for direct market access for their farmers’ brinjal harvest.
The brinjal farmers also practice traditional methods to manage birds. If you look closely in this photo, you’ll see some strange looking branches with tins atop. These are called wind ghosts.
You know, I am a city slicker. For a long time I couldn’t tell you the difference between either end of a plant. That is until I set up my home on Bowen Island and had a quarter of an acre to do something with.
Through online tutorials and help from my neighbours and friends on Bowen, I discovered I had a bit of a green thumb and have been growing fruit and veggies in my garden for over 10 years now.
This has given me an interest in using only indigenous seeds, growing much of my vegetables that I eat over Spring, Summer and Fall, using scarce water very efficiently, not using any form of chemicals at all, staggered planting to prolong my harvest and planting complimentary plants to facilitate good growing conditions. The only thing I haven’t yet figured out is how to save seeds. That’s next on my list.
Anyway, I am telling you all of this just to say, I am loving all this agriculture that I am being exposed to here in Sri Lanka! I am surprised to realise I know more about growing than I thought. I still have much much more to learn, but I’m at least not shaming myself in front of these small-holder farmers and agricultural technologists as I do my work out n the field.
And by the way, I have lots more photos to show you and many more stories to tell – stay tuned!