The Sri Lanka connection
I first came to know about Revathi following the tsunami that hit parts of coastal Tamil Nadu in Dec. ’04. Sudha visited Nagapattinam and met with Nammalvarji and Revathi during her travels through India in Jan-March ’05. Their soil desalination work in the tsunami affected land received wide publicity and acclaim from all quarters, finding prime time spots in President Abdul Kalam and then in the former US President Bill Clinton’s visits. When Sudha and I visited Nagai again in Dec ’05, we could see the difference the methods they advocated had made – the productivity of the land said the story loud and clear.
After sporadic correspondence over the past two years, we established contact with Revathi and her partner R.T.. It was decided that we would meet with them in Thiruvarur and visit their newly started farm in Aliyur, between Thiruvarur and Nagai on 17th July. Apparently Revathi had returned from Sri Lanka just a day earlier and had to rush to her son’s school in Coimbatore that evening. In the few hours that we had that day, she told us about the work her group, Tamil nadu Organic Farmers Movement (TOFarM), was doing in Sri Lanka.
Due to the continued violence in the northern and north eastern parts of Sri Lanka, a unique situation has been created. SL is a tropical country and most of its agricultural land were deforested in the recent past. The extremely rich soil means that an amazing variety of weeds grow at a lightening pace. Farmers depend on chemical weedicites to help control this problem. Transportation is exorbitantly costly and unreliable in the region due to the violence and instability. So neither fertilizers nor weedicides are available when they are needed.
Oxfam (Great Britain) hired Revathi and TOFarM as consultants to help move the community towards organic agriculture and greater food security. The initial success of the program was noticed by the local govt. authorities and they pulled out all the stops and soon had Ampara’s entire agriculture dept officials trained by TOFarM. As part of the Rebuilding Ampara project TOFarM has helped move thousands of farmers towards organic farming.
Apparently, impressed by the success of the organic farming program, Tamil rebel leaders have initiated talks to take the program to Trincomalee and other strife torn provinces. If and when the program is implemented in other areas controlled by the Tamil rebels, any questions about the veracity of reports from a govt. agency in the war zone can be put to rest.