Ballanmaldigana Traditional Rice Farming and Irrigation Rehabilitation

Panama Village
Panama is a traditional village located on the South-eastern coast of Sri Lanka, affected by 30 years of civil war and the 2004 Tsunami. This village resides on the border of a Kumana National park which is a well-known wildlife reserve and 30 minutes away from the famous Arugambay surfing beach.  Panama village itself has a beautiful beach; however, no tourism related infrastructure is available or planned.  The area experiences a seasonal rainfall pattern of over 8 months dry and 4 months rainy months throughout the year. Villagers own a considerable amount of rice farming lands, some are located within the wild life sanctuary.  Recorded history of the area goes back to over 2300 years and villagers still maintain their rich cultural heritage. Ruins of stone structures and small to medium irrigation reservoirs showcase the ancient glory associated with the traditional agricultural economy.


Famers’ Needs
Rising cost of hybrid seeds, agrochemicals, and fertilizer has led farmers to a never ending cycle of indebtedness and poverty. Above all, the ancient irrigation systems that collects water to be used during the dry season which are mostly located within the wild life sanctuary, have been abandoned and damaged for many years.  Ballanmaldigana reservoir located in the wildlife sanctuary were among them. The rice fields are cultivated only during one season (SEPto Feb) using rain water. Farmers tried to get assistance from the government to rehabilitate the broken bund of this reservoir.  The deptment of wild life didn't allow massive constructions within the sanctuary, and the money allocated was reversed back to the government.  The worst case was that storm water coming from the damaged section of the bund during heavy rain season was destroying the cultivated rice fields. Farm organization tried to hold the water by building a temporary bunds with sand bags, but they were not strong enough.  However, Panama Farm Organization approached VanLanka through Derana Community Foundation seeking financial support to rehabilitate this reservoir.  

mama "Panama Farm Organization approached VanLanka through Derana Community Foundation seeking financial support to rehabilitate this reservoir.  VCF’s interest in researching Ancient Irrigation Systems and promoting Traditional Farming in Sri Lanka siezed this challenge as a rewarding opportunity to get involved."



Irrigation Rehabilitation
Derana Community foundation negotiated with the Farm Organization to provide financial support needed to rehabilitate the broken bund of Ballanmaldigana reservoir, should the farmers commit to grow traditional rice in the irritable rice fields. They agreed and a few committed members of the farm organization endeavoured to contribute their labour, construction management and logistics support to complete the project. With the total of LKR 650,000 funds provided by VanLanka Community foundation, the rehabilitation of the bund was completed within 6 months.


Traditional Rice Farming
The reconstruction of this reservoir meant that over 4500 kg of traditional varieties of rice seeds, including Suwadel, kuruluthuda, dahanel, sivuruvee, madathawalu, pachchperumal, were distributed among 23 farmers. Around 60 acres of rice fields were cultivated during September 2013/2014. The average yield was 550kg per acre with no expenditure on fertilizer and agrochemicals.  For example, one farmer claimed that he sold over LKR 90, 000 worth of rice which is the highest income he had ever obtained.   


Water for Wildlife
It was apparent that the stored water in the Ballanmaldigana reservoir was not only important to the farmers but also to the animals of the Kumana National Park. While all other water patches in the national park had dried up, water remained in abundance in the Ballanmaldigana reservoir. The water in the reservoir is almost a matter of life and death for these animals, and demonstrates how reservoir restoration can contribute not only to improved agriculture but also to sustain local natural habitats.

tank suwadel wild

Future Plans 2014/2015

Sluice gate of the Reservoir
Funding for the year 2013/2014 was only sufficient to construct the broken parts of the bund and funding was not available to repair the sluice gate and the spillways which were built undersized in relation to the original capacity of the catchment.  Farm organization submitted and estimate of CAD 3227 and agreed to built all the irrigation canals by themselves.  VCF decided to allocate funding for sluice gate during 2014/2015, which will enable farmers to cultivate rice during both seasons.


Capacity building of Farmers
VCF found various issues related to the promotion of traditional rice such as: finding right varieties of seeds, saving seeds for next season, saving enough rice for farmer consumption, training farmers on traditional knowledge and techniques, providing composting, processing and marketing as well as improving organizational capacity of farm organization to monitor all activities including irrigation maintenance.  VCF is seeking funding for this activity as well as funding to VCF to monitor project activities as our priority focus.  


Community Support Education
Education as an effective strategy to attract young people to be engaged. We are planning to get volunteer teachers as community support leaders to provide English as the Second Language and Information Technology education for school leavers, women and young farmers. By doing this, we expect youth and women to engage in providing labour for the farm, mainly in harvesting and processing. Further we plan to develop the entrepreneurial capacity of youth to develop business in composting, processing, organic farming.

Contact for any information regarding the project activities in Panama 
Mr. Saminda Vijayakumara, Chairman,
Gamunu Farm Organization
Panama west, Panama
Phone: + 94 71 215 9662

All rights reserved by vanlanka community foundation. last modified Monday, December 15, 2014