Organic farming methodology
Our methods are unorthodox – we are learning the land by watching it, listening to it and experimenting. We plant 50 trees across the property, observing which ones take and which do not, in order to understand micro-conditions.
Before there were chemical fertilisers, we used plants and trees grown amongst the crops to act as composters, pest repellents and for water retention. At Shrawani, we plant das flowers to ward off pests and special varieties of trees to attract those insects beneficial to the farm. We grow albezia trees with their fine leaves that fall and create rich compost. Our tea fields are lined with gliricedia, high in nitrogen and strong posts on which pepper can be grown. Our garden is also home to a fellow villager’s cow, who produces a bit of manure that we use to fertilise young saplings.
Nutrition over quantity
Whenever possible, we collect seeds from traditional fruits and vegetables – those untouched by high-yield, quick-growing imported versions. As a result, we grow highly nutritious food and rich spices, with which a little goes a long way.
We believe that the knowledge we require exists around us - accessing it is about tuning our dials to receive it. To tune the dial, silence and stillness is needed – only then will it unfold. So, we watch, listen and we learn. Observing our land is our chief source of knowledge, ranked well above books and databases. Our pace is slow, but innovative and rewarding.
Sharing and learning
This is a vital part of our work - we connect with like-minded people, sharing our knowledge and the species we have recovered with other green-fingered individuals and projects.
The bigger picture
We have a wider vision, one that will see Sri Lanka become a fully organic nation - producing high quality food not only for ourselves but for export as well. From systematic soil testing to the production of organic fertiliser, cold storage facilities and markets for the sale of goods - we have thought of each detail of a model for change that will have numerous benefits.
Imagine a world where the knowledge of past generations is sought, recorded and combined with the power of technology to grow highly nutritious food and natural medicines. We dream about mastering biodynamics – that is, the use of astrological knowledge and conditions to produce higher yields and special qualities in plants. Before this knowledge leaves this world, we hope to find and record what we can.
"Maduka spent many years living in remote villages, largely uninfluenced by the agricultural shifts happening on the commercial farmlands of Sri Lanka. She remembers fruits and vegetables that are now rare – watermelons that were long and so large that when you cut one open, you’d invite your neighbours and friends to share them. We cherish these traditional fruits, including the Sri Lankan yellow pawpaw – denser and more nutritious than the reddish versions later introduced (red lady and chintha). Now, pawpaws are sweet but watery – not dense, filling or rich in kerotine and papain. We want the original back. That’s why we are always seeking untainted seeds from older plants, hoping to bring them back into cultivation and onto our table."