By Bernadine Rodrigo
The “Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme in Sri Lanka” (TAMAP), a case study carried out by economic research and consulting company Ecorys, stated that the Sri Lankan agriculture sector has faced many challenges which resulted in overall poor performance in productivity, thereby making it extremely difficult to keep up with other sectors of our economy and to gain higher investments from stakeholders. The challenges, which they believe are eminent, include the lack of adequate land, unpredictable weather, the lack of strategic planning, and disregard for stakeholder opinions.
The Government of Sri Lanka, not bearing to stand idle as this goes on, prompted by the TAMAP and funded by the European Union (EU), developed what is known as the Overarching Agriculture Policy (OAP), aiming to systematically develop the agricultural industry of the country.
“The OAP is targeted at enhancing agriculture and agri-business competitiveness through innovative and sustainable technologies and constructive partnerships in conductive, institutional, and regulatory environments,” the parties involved stated. “The policy aims to enhance contribution towards economic growth and raising living standards of people engaged in agriculture, while ensuring sustainable use of natural resources and contributing to national food security.”
The OAP lists down four main strategic goals:
1. Increased productivity
2. Market-oriented development
3. Sustainable use of natural resources
4. Efficient and effective delivery of public and other goods and services
In the process of realising their goal, they have conducted a number of workshops at a local level, including those done in Kandy and Hambantota, as well as various studies at an international level, including that done in Vietnam.
After strenuous research, TAMAP realised the use of technology would greatly benefit the goals of their project, following which they decided to make use of the “Govipola” app launched in early 2019.
Govipola is the very first app created in our country for the purpose of making agriculture-based transactions. Its founders, Suren Kohombage and Faiq Faaiz, observed the lack of such a commodity in a country that has given prominence to agriculture for centuries.
“The problem was farmers were unable to obtain a fair price and a market for their produce. Then, we got together and decided to develop an app as a solution – one that benefits the farmer as well as the buyer by opening the market to both parties,” said Kohombage.
The app already has over 15,000 downloads and is reportedly being used by more than 10,000 farmers while their Facebook page is followed by over 25,000 subscribers. The app does not only work within the country, but also connects users to the international forum. The founders gave an example of how a buyer exporting to the Middle East was asked for a fruit named “red lady papaya” and how, after using the app, he was able to find a place to source the fruit.
How to use
The app is very user-friendly and is available for free downloading. Following the installation, all the user has to do is register and get started. It can be used by any local as the app has the wonderfully Sri Lankan feature of being trilingual.
The app allows the user to specify the product type, grade, and other important details such as financial and logistical specifications (e.g. availability of stocks and prices depending on various factors). Individuals interested in making transactions can contact each other via the app or through direct calling. To identify this potential buyer or seller, an “order matching” feature introduces you to a range of displays with corresponding products.
“Every matched order enables the opening of a direct confirmation channel for trade in line with conditions agreed upon by the parties,” the founders explained.
The app can be downloaded via both Google Play and Apple App Store which provides wider access. While the app still requires further development in terms of methods of making payments, which still has to be done manually, TAMAP is determined on overcoming these issues and creating a bridge they like to call the “food-tech bridge” and consequently uplift the state of Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector.
We might achieve the heights of our ancestors back in times of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa when our nation was a thriving, self-sustainable, agricultural giant, but through new and innovative ways.
Photos: Saman Abesiriwardana