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Make use of abandoned paddy fields

Make use of abandoned paddy fields in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka had been a main rice exporter in the past. It had been called the “Granary of the East”’. Sri Lankans enjoy reading the stories on King Parakramabahu , Mahasen & Dathusena who made this feat possible. These as well as other kings in the past built huge tanks to uplift cultivation of rice as Sri Lanka was an agricultural country from the past.  The idea of great King Parakramabahu’s motto was not to allow even a rain drop to flow into the ocean without being made use of.

Unfortunately Sri Lanka imports rice today. At present considerable amount of paddy fields in Sri Lanka have been abandoned creating many social, economic and environmental issues. There are many reasons to abandon paddy fields by farmers. However every farmer is able to make use of their abandoned paddy fields again as many innovative solutions have been introduced for farmers’ issues by many professionals and institutions in agricultural sector.


After 19th century the population of country increased by considerable amount and hence the governments started to improve the quantity of cultivation lands. When the Sri Lanka gained independence, people’s lifestyle was simple and they all depended on the harvest from their own paddy fields. The government also provided many facilities to uplift paddy cultivation. Provision of water by Irrigation projects such as Mahaweli & Galoya, provision of lands & fertilizers, introducing new seeds and latest techniques are the some of them. Many paddy fields throughout the country were filled with crops.

However a sudden change in lifestyle happened at the end of twentieth century due to technical development. A part of the society kept their feet away from farming to do jobs in factories or offices and used to buy rice from the market.  In addition to this, there are many other reasons for farmers not to cultivate as described later in this report.  As a result of all those reasons, the total area of paddy cultivated lands became less over the years.

The government that came to power in 2004 recognized the issues relevant to abandoned paddy fields. They allocated money to improve the paddy cultivation quantitatively. Irrigation tanks and canals were reconstructed with the government funds. Although the famers started to grow rice again at the beginning eagerly, it was not continued later.

However countries like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos cultivate rice successfully. Many researches on sri Lankan abandoned paddy field, have been carried out individually as wells as institutionally. Many reports have been produced by Department of Agriculture and submitted to the government. Those also have been published for public consumption.

Scope and limits

In this report reasons, consequences, and solutions on abandoned paddy fields are discussed. It may be necessary to discuss on abandoned paddy field widely considering factors such as global economy, Politics and Psychology etc. There is no intension to discuss all those except the things important to farmers

Reasons not to cultivate

Lack of water when the water is most needed to the rice plant is a major issue. The rainfall to dry zone is very less comparative to other areas of country. And also in the northern part of the dry zone due to the war most irrigation tanks & canals are found to be destroyed. So some famers in dry zone have abandoned their paddy fields.

In the wet zone rain water is not stored in tanks except few areas. And unexpected floods occur causing the paddy cultivation abandoned.

Return on investment is poor with paddy especially in the wet zone given the low yields due to cloud cover and soil. However in the dry zone return on investment is good given the subsidies and the certified price for paddy.

Due to the unplanned constructions and reclamations some natural water resources suitable for cultivations have been diminished. Waste water disposal from factories, & hotels have effected badly on the usage of lands for paddy as well.

In the districts such as Colombo ,Gampaha , Kaluthara areas people’s  trend is to buy rice from shops rather than cultivating. If you are a person living in these areas, your mind is not of a farmer though your father or grandfather would have been farmers. As you may know the new generation throughout the country is becoming well educated and trying to find white collar jobs. So in the urban areas, most of paddy fields have been abandoned due to changes happening in lifestyle of people. More and more people think the harvest taken from their own paddy field is not cheap than buying the same from a shop considering the works they do or time they have to spend.

Due to attacks from animals or spreading many diseases such as, rat fewer etc., farmers have kept their eyes away from paddy fields allowing to be abandoned.

People do not to cultivate their own field if the adjacent land is abandoned too.

The sizes of fields per a person become less and less over generations. So people hesitate to cultivate as the harvest is not enough to fulfill needs of a family. They go in search of other income sources and as a result will not be able to focus on their cultivation.

Modern techniques and machineries cannot be accommodated in small scale paddy fields successfully. So farming individually has been a difficult task.

Farmers’ income is not enough to survive and hence deviate from cultivating.

Consequences of uncultivated paddy fields

  • Rice need to be imported from other countries to fulfill the needs of Sri Lankans and it effects badly on national economy.
  • Spreading deceases like Malaria, Dengue & Cholera .
  • Loss of natural beauty.
  • Drainage problems

What actions farmers can take?

Farmers can cultivate fields as a whole group rather than individual farmers. Then modern techniques and machines can be adopted at a low cost. Actually paddy cultivation is limited to several weeks while paying little concerns during other months. Therefore farmers can engage in part time jobs to obtain a higher income. If it is difficult farming two seasons, at least one season can be cultivated.   In between the cultivating seasons, farmers can grow other types of crops having a financial value. If you have abandoned field and there is no hope of cultivating, it is better to handover to another farmer for cultivation.

If it is abandoned and unable to adopt cultivation of rice again, trees like teak can be grown in those lands.