We Can’t Afford Our Lives Now: The Food Challenges in Sri Lanka
This post was authored by the Chrysalis team and Ahamed Rislan in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is facing an incredible set of challenges. The prices for staple food, such as rice and vegetables, have doubled. Cooking gas is both expensive and in short supply, making it difficult for many to keep kitchen fires burning. As one woman said, “Family is stressed, neighbors are stressed, society is stressed. We lost our peaceful environment suddenly, we can’t afford our lives now and we are so disappointed about ourselves now. No proper food for us, no proper clothing, no proper way to our children’s education.”
More than 60% of families are eating less, cheaper and less nutritious food; 6.7 million people are not eating enough; and 5.3 million people are reducing the number of meals partaken during the day. The situation has further worsened as the government has scaled down its nutrition programs, such as school meals and fortified food for mothers and malnourished children, due to severe financial constraints.
In the last three months, about two in five households reported that their income had been cut in half. To cope with the lack of food, 5 million people are using crisis or emergency livelihood coping strategies that are likely to impact their medium- to long-term capacity for income-generating activities and food security.
To make the situation even worse, harvests are dropping fast. Many women are not even farming this year because it is not possible for them.
“Due to the increased price of paddy and fertilizer, we are unable to access them for our cultivation because we can’t afford it. The seed paddy has tripled in price and the fertilizer has gone up to an unimaginable amount. So we decided to sit back and do fishing and other activities to earn money.”
This comes on top of two consecutive seasons of poor harvests that led to a nearly 50% drop in production coupled with reduced imports of food grains due to foreign exchange constraints. The problem was compounded after an abrupt switch to organic farming, ordered by the government last year, shrank local harvests — about half of last year’s rice crop was lost. The chemical fertilizer ban has since been lifted, but the shortages have made food scarcer. The report stated that the upcoming Maha season is at risk of a 50% reduction in paddy planting areas. There is also an unlikely recovery of the fisheries and livestock sectors if farmers do not gain access to seeds, fertilizer, fuel and financial assistance.
Paddy rice production, the main food staple, is forecast at 3 million mt in 2022, the lowest level since the 2017 drought-affected harvest, mostly due to low yields following reduced fertilizers. Production of maize, mostly used as animal feed, is about 40% below the past five-year average, with negative effects on poultry and livestock production. Likewise, the production of vegetables, fruit and export-oriented crops, such as tea, rubber, coconut and spices, is well below average, causing a significant decline in households’ income and export revenues.
Read the whole brief here: https://careevaluations.org/evaluation/food-security-and-nutrition-crisis-in-sri-lanka/.