PALUGASWANGUWA, SRI LANKA
Starting in 1994, a series of mysterious deaths were discovered in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, mostly among rice paddy farmers. These victims who developed signs of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) which progressed quickly to End stage Renal Disease (ESRD) were healthy robust males in their 30s and 40s, without any history of diabetes or hypertension (the commonly known risk factors for CKD).
Without adequate specialized treatments most patients succumbed to the illness in a year or two. Over the next two decades the disease spread to the surrounding farming areas exposing a total population of nearly 3 million, with 69,258 diagnosed patients and almost 22,700 reported deaths. These individuals were the bread winners of the family which led to the surviving family becoming destitute and literally starving.
Our program involves the preparation of a “kanda” (a special porridge) out of the traditional varieties of rice and green leafy vegetables. We serve it as breakfast in the schools to the children of the areas that have the highest prevalence of CKD, in the North Central Province. The traditional varieties of rice absorb less toxins from the environment and the antioxidants contained in these varieties are also an effective way of limiting the toxic effects of the agrochemicals.
Most of the children in this area have lost their fathers due to kidney disease. They typically come to school without breakfast. We aimed to educate the farmers to grow traditional varieties of rice without using pesticides, which we suspect is the cause of this mysterious spike in kidney disease. We buy the traditional rice from the farmers at a guaranteed price and feed the children with a very nutritious rice porridge, known as kanda.
Traditional rice is a good source of protein and iron with compared to developed rice varieties.
Farmers in the endemic regions are the suppliers of traditional rice. These varieties are not dependent on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers hence, it is an indirect promotion of chemical free farming.
The program is being implemented at Palugaswanguwa Maha Vidyalaya. Teachers and parents take care of preparation and distribution of kanda.
Cost for one glass of kanda : Rs 10/=
Number of Students: 470
Number of Teachers: 30
Cost of kanda for a day= Rs.5000/=
Cost of kanda for a month= Rs.100,000/=