Land Rights Now – Ravindra Kariyawasam – Sri Lanka

20 Oct 2018

We have seen the dangers of land grabbing. People in this community are losing their land day by day, traditional agriculture is dying day by day and biodiversity and animals are dying day by day. Ravindra Kariyawasam

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My home Sri Lanka is a land rich in agriculture, an agriculture that helps to sustain our people. Unfortunately, this rich agriculture also makes this land attractive to land grabbers. Land grabbing is a major issue in my community and many European companies are to blame for this. Since 2015, land grabbers have stolen thousands of hectares of land to cultivate bananas and for commercial agriculture more generally. While there are laws in place that are supposed to protect the land, such as the Flora and Fauna Act, and the National Environment Act, the government too often acts in the interest of land grabbers. I feel that the government doesn’t think about the sustainability of the earth, people, or agriculture; their focus is making money. Sometimes the land is part of a forest, sometimes the land belongs to the Indigenous people. The multinational companies take the lands to grow and sell products from our land to Europeans. There are no voices defending the people, the animals, and the food. The government is silent.

For almost half of my life, I’ve fought to protect biodiversity in my community. I believe that if I, and others in my community, protect our resources, we can create something sustainable. The knowledge I draw upon to protect my land has passed down to me from many generations back, and I learned it from my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother never went to school, but she understood the importance of protecting the land, knowledge that she has passed on to me.

I believe that if we can convince the media to focus on our community and we can raise awareness about the issues that we face, maybe we can get the help that we need and the Europeans that are involved in exploiting my land can help it, rather than preventing us from being sustainable. If the earth is sustained, it can sustain us.

I am a National Coordinator for the Center for Environment and Nature Studies, a volunteer-run organization that doesn’t take money from anyone. The purpose of the organization is to sustain the environment through cooperation and community effort. This network includes youths, farmers, and people from different communities; and an ashram where people can practice yoga and share knowledge. It’s a supportive and inclusive environment that’s open to all people, without fear of discrimination.

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