And the 2013 Forging Farmers’ Steward Alum award goes to…

Last November MESA awarded the 2013 Forging Farmers’ Steward alumnus award to Hemantha Abeywaradhana from Sri Lanka. Before Hemantha joined MESA, he was a professional social worker, but he always had a passion for agriculture. In 2012 Hemantha trained at the Golden Rule mini-farm in Willits, CA where he learned GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) farming techniques and mentoring skills from the dedicated Golden Rule farm staff and Ecology Action trainers.

Upon return home in November, 2012, Hemantha hit the ground running: in just over one year he’s already made a huge impact on the direction of agricultural development in Sri Lanka!

Initially, Hemantha started out with his own home garden, applying GB techniques and sharing with his neighbors. He then purchased a 1.5 acre plot to begin a research garden, and connected with members from his NGO to develop simple training modules for young farmers, with the assistance of MESA’s global Partner the Sewalanka Foundation. Soon after, Hemantha accepted work as project facilitator with the Practical Action Network to introduce GB techniques to home gardeners, and develop training documents and presentations. He’s currently focused on home gardens and research and serves as a technical consultant for two GB demonstration gardens and 150 home gardens under the RUAF research project and Janathaksan organization. He has taught GB techniques to 100+ government field officers and over 300 home gardeners, and says he feels like he’s just getting started! He writes “I’ve planned a training program with assistance from the commissioner of the department of Agrarian services in Colombo District to be started next month. (Targets: Raise Awareness for 200 field officers and train 100 field officers in GB techniques, and implement 5 model gardens, 100 model home gardens, thereby training 1000 farmers and raising awareness of 2000 home gardeners). I’ve been in discussion with Government development authorities to start the GB training program. Both REDA (Regional Economic Development Agency–Central province) and SPDA (Southern Provincial Development Authority –Southern Province) have agreed to implement these GB training programs. I initiated the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sri Lanka program to empower home gardeners and small farmers. I’ve recorded a GB documentary for telecast on my government’s national television channel. I am also planning with Ecology Action to raise funds for a GB Asian internship program.”

In addition to the agricultural skills and expertise Hemantha gained during his MESA program, he also fondly notes “the members of Golden Rule and their activities helped me to change my attitude for the better about USA people and culture.”

As if Hemantha hasn’t already accomplished enough since his MESA program experience, he now aims to write a book titled “The Silent Revaluation of Sri Lanka – Chapters of a Social Worker” about his own transformative experience as a student of GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farming in California that appears likely to transform the Sri Lanka’s traditional paddy-farming sector and influence his nation’s agriculture policies for generations to come.

If you’d like to see Hemantha in action, please check out this terrific video he put together, and like his Facebook page!