National workshop on climate and disaster risk management in Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector

March 23, 2021

The agriculture sector of Sri Lanka plays an important role in the country’s economy and is one of the sectors that is most vulnerable to climate change.

Changing weather patterns, pest and animal attacks, and soil degradation, among other factors, have decreased the productivity of the sector, resulting in implications to livelihoods, food security, and the economy. Climate and disaster risk management in Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector can go a long way in ensuring that farmers and other stakeholders are able to cope with and adapt to risks brought about by climate change and disasters.

As part of SLYCAN Trust’s work related to climate and disaster risk management and resilience building in the agriculture sector, a workshop titled ‘Climate and Disaster Risk Management in Sri Lanka’s Agricultural Sector’ was organised to focus on the key climate impacts in the agriculture sector and to identify the existing mechanisms to help cope with and adapt to risks in the agriculture sector.

The event was organised by the Media Centre for National Development, the Ministry of Mass Media, the Ministry of Agriculture, and SLYCAN Trust at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo, on 22 March 2021.

Key points shared by participants

During the discussions and group engagement at the workshop, participants identified key inputs focused on addressing climate and disaster risk, entry points for scaling-up actions to address them, lessons learnt, and good practices.

A summary of the key points is as follows:

  • The agriculture sector’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and challenges related to climate-induced losses and damages can be both in the agricultural cycle and the agricultural value chain.
  • There are interlinkages between pest and wild animal attacks and climate and weather changes; however, there is a need for research and evidence generation related to this area of focus.
  • Changing weather patterns impact the productivity of the agricultural sector, with implications to food security from household to community level.
  • Lack of knowledge and information dissemination has resulted in knowledge gaps among farmers and grassroot level officials.
  • Existing data gaps in the agricultural sector create limitations and restrictions, which lead to delays in addressing risks in the sector.
  • The consequences of long- or short-term/seasonal migration, human mobility, and change of primary occupation of its primary stakeholders impact the sector.
  • The unwillingness of the youth to engage in agriculture is attributed to a number of factors, including the demanding nature of agriculture, lack of profitability, lack of social recognition, etc.
  • The sector is impacted by losses due to farmers’ reluctance to accept agro-met advisories and heavy reliance on traditional knowledge and experiences.

Recommendations and suggestions

During the discussion, methods were proposed to enhance climate risk management and existing finance and risk transfer mechanisms.

Key recommendations and suggestions were as follows:

  • Improve early warning and social security systems, localise agro-met advisory and climate-smart agriculture techniques, and introduce weather-tolerant seed and plant varieties to minimise risk and loss and damage in the sector.
  • Introducing new/enhanced water and soil management methods to manage risks arising from changing weather conditions.
  • Provide training to farmers and local officials to take necessary mitigation and adaptation measures to manage risks in the agricultural sector.
  • Design economically-viable risk management and risk transfer tools, taking community requirements into consideration.
  • An efficient system must be put in place to provide efficient funding for farmers during climate-related disasters to quickly recover from climate-related losses.
  • Introduce insurance schemes based on crop diversification and develop financial instruments like weather derivatives to enhance existing finance and risk transfer mechanisms in the country.
  • Relevant stakeholders should expedite payouts through technology-incorporated insurance assessment methods such as drones and photo-based assessments.
  • Improve climate risk-related finance literacy among people through awareness creation programmes.

This multi-stakeholder event was presided over by Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage and included as speakers SLYCAN Trust’s Senior Technical Expert Dr. Ranjith Punyawardena and InsuResilience Secretariat Head Dr. Astrid Zwick.

The event was attended by key officials from Government departments working on agriculture, irrigation, rural and sustainable development, climate change, disaster management, and finance, as well as representatives from the banking and insurance industry, the private sector, civil society, academia, and other entities.

The workshop builds on previous multi-stakeholder consultation, workshops, and research conducted by SLYCAN Trust under the ‘Multi-Actor Partnerships on Climate and Disaster Risk Financing and Preparedness in the Context of the InsuResilience Global Partnership’ project. This project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by SLYCAN Trust in collaboration with Chrysalis as a local partner in Sri Lanka.

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