Time to Restore the Lost Food Tradition

Food production, distribution and consumption are part of the identity of any country. In most of countries, there is a strong state mechanism to maintain this identity which is known as the food culture. But what happened to our food culture? 

The Chinese academic behind hybrid rice, Dr. Yuan Longping, passed away during the last week of May this year. Millions of people around the globe paid last respects to this honorable man whose legacy is larger than life. The legacy that this noble man has bequeathed to the world is unparalleled. He worked around the clock to save the humanity from starvation. He is man who fought for securing the food culture of his nation. He witnessed the famine and tragedy of millions of Chinese who starved to death due to various political and economic policies. Finding a solution to this grave situation was extremely difficult and challenging. After he invented hybrid rice in the early seventies, a crippling food crisis that China was facing was solved. His innovation was promulgated as a part of state policy. Necessary steps were taken to integrate these policies with new technologies. That is why not only China but also countries like Israel, which has turned desert lands into fertile lands, have been able to move forward with agricultural productions and introduce new patterns of food production to the world. Steady national policies upgraded with the latest technologies while protecting the traditional identify of the nation’s food culture are the secret behind their development. 

Since a large percentage of the world’s population consumes rice, hybrid rice was a decisive solution to meet the world’s food demand. Dr. Longping fed billions of world population. But supplying healthy food remains a global challenge. We, human civilization, are in a grim situation. According to statistics, globally, about 8.9% of the world’s population — 690 million people — go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Since 2014, the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise. If it continues at this rate, it’ll exceed 840 million by 2030.  Hunger and widespread malnutrition are no longer crisis that far away from us. Across sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, about 57% of the population is unable to afford a healthy diet. The crisis before us is clear. It is time to have proactive national mechanism to overcome these emerging challenges. 

These days; there is a wide-ranging social discourse about agriculture and its failures and opportunities throughout Sri Lanka after the government announced its ambition to achieve full organic agricultural country. There are many challenges facing this field. Production has been declining for a variety of reasons. The withdrawal of the younger generation from agriculture has had a huge impact. Latest technologies in agriculture are yet to be introduced to the country.

Needless to say, Sri Lanka is an agrarian country. It is a country that has been producing rice for thousands of years. However, due to various social upheavals and inappropriate political decisions, Sri Lanka’s agricultural production, including rice production, has weakened. The chemical introduced to gain more yields in short period not only debilitated the agricultural products but also the health of the farmers and soil. Not only rice but many other crops including fruits that were spread all over the country had to face this tragic fate. As a result, the huge demand for local products was not only lost gradually, but also foreign products invaded the market.

Food production, distribution and consumption are part of the identity of any country. In most of countries, there is a strong state mechanism to maintain this identity which is known as the food culture. But what happened to our food culture?  Sri Lanka was one of the leading rice producing countries in the world, but what is the fate of it now? Sri Lanka has the second oldest tea research institute in the world. Its researchers have introduced a wide variety of teas. But how many people living in Sri Lanka, which has a population of only 22 million out of 7.5 billion world population, can afford original tea? The local market has become a paradise for various fraudsters. They are ready to feed any poison to the people for profit.

Shouldn’t this situation change? Shouldn’t we all contribute to change this nightmare which has taken our very rights of having adequate food? This, we believe, is not the sole responsibility of the political leadership. This is a collective responsibility. The challenges that can be faced there can only be overcome through collective efforts. The time has come for all of us to come together to re-invent our food culture that we lost. By combining that culture with modern technology, the country’s young generation can become its driving force. It is the moment to introduce smart farmers in smart farms who are ready to feed healthy food for generations to come.  It is the responsibility of all to stand up for this national cause, despite the vicious criticisms leveled against it for the sake of achieving narrow goals. Then humanity will flourish.

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