Current Status and Issues of Food and Nutrition Security in Sri Lanka
Prof Buddhi Marambe
Sri Lanka has a diverse natural resource base on which the country heavily relies to improve livelihoods, generate income and reduce poverty. Agriculture, including fisheries, is the backbone of economic growth, and being the only source that provides adequate food to prevent hunger and starvation, has continued to play a pivotal role in the Sri Lankan economy, providing employment to 32.5 % of the labor force, contributing to the national level food and nutrition security. Sri Lanka has a good track record on many Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), however, making a slower progress on the goals related to malnutrition and child mortality. The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) for 2012, which was released recently, has placed Sri Lanka at the 62nd position from among 105 countries.
The national policy documents namely, “Mahinda Chintana, Ten Year Horizon, Development Framework, 2006-2016”, “Mahinda Chintana – Vision for the Future”, National Agriculture Policy of 2007, National Livestock Development Policy of 2007, National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Policy of 2006 and the Food and Nutrition Policy for 2004-2010 of Sri Lanka provides the necessary directives to ensure food and nutrition security in Sri Lanka. The “Colombo Statement on Food Security” of 2008 provides the policy guide to all SAARC countries and highlights the need to evolve and implement people-centered short to medium term regional strategy and collaborative projects, which will help in achieving food and nutrition security. The fertilizer subsidy, “Api Wawamu Rata Nagamu”, The National Program for Food Security (NPFS) of 2009, Samurdhi, Thriposha and the Mid-day meal in schools, and “Divi Neguma” are the key programmes implemented in Sri Lanka aiming at improving agricultural productivity leading to food and nutrition security.
At present, Sri Lanka has achieved the cherished goal of self sufficiency in rice, making the country food secure in the staple food. However, despite the efforts made at the national level, the availability and affordability of protein sources and other major food items are not comparable to such improvements in the major cereals. he status of malnutrition and under-nutrition across urban, rural and estate sectors also indicate that a substantial variation of food security status of households exist among these three sectors. Malnutrition, particularly protein energy malnutrition (PEM), and anaemia pervades the life circle Sri Lankans and marked disparities exist in the prevalence of PEM between the sectors.
Poverty, climate changes, decreasing arable agricultural land and increasing population pressure are the main issues that render achieving the national level food and nutrition security more challenging in Sri Lanka. The weak trends in technology generation in agriculture, global economic crises, and poor accessibility of nutritious food are other issues to be tackled effectively in ensuring food and nutrition security in the country. Identification and prioritization of poverty reduction strategies, introducing and maintaining proper delivery mechanisms, establishing private-public partnerships, building capacity among administrative and management personnel, introducing better budgetary management, formulating a transparent mechanism while maintaining a peaceful environment in the country are imperative in framing and implementing policies and programmes to ensure food and nutrition security in Sri Lanka.