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World Food Day was commemorated at an event held in Kurunegala on 16th October 2016 with the participation of a large number of invitees, farmers and general public under the global theme “ Climate is changing: Food and agriculture must too.” It was organized by Caritas Sri Lanka in collaboration with Caritas Kurunegala – Janasetha, Caritas Anuradhapura – Sethsaviya and Caritas Batticaloa – EHED. The main event which took place at Hotel Indoora had many colorful cultural items and informative talks given by eminent speakers from India and Sri Lanka on the importance of organic farming and the ill-effects of the use of agro-chemicals.
Parallel to this event, 30 exhibition stalls displaying organic food products were on display along the Puttalam Road in Kurunegala. People were eager to purchase poison-free organic products sold by the Caritas Diocesan Centres and other organic farmers. A notable feature was the enthusiasm with which the general public wanted access to the variety of food items grown and processed without using harmful agro-chemicals.
Welcoming the participants, Mr Yu Hwa Li, Senior Executive Manager of Caritas Sri Lanka said that in response to an appeal by Pope Francis three years ago to fight hunger and poverty everywhere, the International Caritas Confederation had launched a global campaign called “ONE HUMAN FAMILY: FOOD FOR ALL” with a view to help the nearly one billion suffering people worldwide. In Sri Lanka, Caritas is implementing a project to raise awareness on the importance of food security, promote organic farming methods and encourage new techniques for sustainable agriculture. Caritas Sri Lanka also commemorates World Food Day on 16th October in order to explore how our programmes are helping to fight poverty and reduce hunger. This year the global theme is timely and relevant since the effects of climate change are posing a real threat to the future of agriculture.The Chief Minister of the North Western Province, Mr. Dharmasiri Dassanayaka in his address said that in today's context we seem to be eating, drinking and breathing poison. The soil absorbs agro chemicals which in turn seep into the water flows. Another regrettable trend that affects food security is the high food wastage which must be avoided at all costs in order to save food for the future. Home gardens are yet another feature that needs to be propagated and in that respect the work done by Caritas is laudable, the Chief Minister said, adding that he himself is a home garden enthusiast who grows healthy food for his own family and that he is personally aware of nearly 500 home gardens existing in the Kurunegala District.
Speaking as Chief Guest on the occasion, Rev Fr Shanthi Kumar Weliwita, National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka noted that World Food Day is about Zero Hunger, which is a UN target to be achieved by the year 2030. It also reminds us that though hunger is rampant in many parts of the world and thousands of children die of hunger every day in Asian and African countries, there is sufficient food available elsewhere and even wastage of food is allowed to happen in some places. He said this is wholly unacceptable. Fortunately, in Sri Lanka, such a poverty situation does not exist and we should not permit it to happen in the future, either. That is why the Caritas Food Security Project is dedicated to helping the farming community to survive, become self-reliant and avoid being trapped by the poverty cycle. At the same, the Caritas project promotes home gardening and the use of organic farming methods in five Administrative Districts of Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Batticaloa Dioceses. Fr Weliwita took the opportunity to thank Caritas Norway who are the partners supporting this important project, for their assistance and encouragement.
Among the other distinguished guests who graced this important event were the Norwegian Ambassador, His Excellency Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther, Dr. V.R. Haridhas- Zonal Manager of Caritas India and Coordinator for Agriculture of Caritas Asia, Mr. Aron Halfen – Programme Advisor of Caritas Norway, Dr. I.P. Yapa – Senior Lecturer, University of Sabaragamuwa and Dr. S.M.D. Narendra Banda – Medical Officer of Health, Ipalogama, Anuradhapura.
The main event was followed on the next day 17th of October 2016 by an agricultural seminar. The Bishop of Anuradhapura, Rt.Rev.Dr. Norbert M. Andradi O.M.I attended the seminar as the Chief Guest.
Prof. Piyal Marasinghe – Advisor to the Provincial Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, Uva Province and Dr. Ajantha de Silva – Director, Natural Resources Management, Department of Agriculture, Peradeniya facilitated the workshops on the second day. The speakers conducted interactive Q & A sessions and opened the forum for vital discussions that would assist the farmers to determine what crops to plant at the end of the present drought scenario. They also shared much-needed technical expertise required by organic farmers, especially those engaged in viable home gardening activities that produce vegetable and fruits for healthy consumption.