Sri Lanka

srilankaSri Lanka is a South Asian island country in the Indian Ocean located in the south-east of India. Its capital is Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte (also called Kotte), located adjacent to the country’s main city Colombo. The population of Sri Lanka, according to 2012 estimates, is 21,481,334.

The country is divided into nine provinces and 25 administrative districts. The districts are sub-divided into 256 divisional secretariats, which are further sub-divided into about 14,000 administrative divisions.

The climate is typical tropical, warm and humid with relatively pleasant climate in higher altitude locations. Rains come in the monsoon season, quite heavy in the highlands while some parts of the country are considered as dry due to minimal rainfall in coastal low lying areas.



About four-fifth of the districts of Sri Lanka are considered as agricultural, inhabited by over 60 percent of the total population. In 2009, the agriculture sector, which engages about 38 percent of the workforce, contributed about 12 percent to the national GDP even though the contribution has been steadily declining. Mainly, family-owned small sized farms constitute agriculture sector as the number of commercial farms is low. Major exportable commodities are tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber and cinnamon. Rice is the main food crop which covers about 40 percent of the cultivable area, followed by coconut covering about 20 percent of the area. Main vegetables include beans, tomato, cabbage, egg plant, ash plantain, okra and red pumpkin. Main fruits are banana, mango, cashew, papaw, orange, rambutan and lime. Forestry and fisheries are also important economic sectors.

Key Statistics and Indicators




Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)











Fertilizer consumption (per hectare of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)









GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)











Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)





Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population

Rural population (% of total population)

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population**

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

total economically active population in agriculture)*



















Sources: The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO, **Bulletin of Labour Force Statistics of Sri Lanka 2006



History of Extension and the Enabling/Disabling Environment

The colonial era concentrated on promoting the plantation agriculture. During the latter part of the 19th century, however, a small number of Agriculture Instructors (AIs) were appointed by the government and placed under the supervision of Government Agents. Ceylon Agriculture Society was formed in 1904 which was responsible for transferring cultivation knowledge of plantation agriculturists to the native farmers. In 1912, the Department of Agriculture was created, which, in 1921, absorbed the Ceylon Agriculture Society which had been focusing on just plantation agriculture. The department comprised six Agriculture Divisions, each headed by one Agriculture Officer while the AIs functioned as frontline extension workers.

After the Second World War, the government put more emphasis on food production, especially rice cultivation, and the AIs were placed under the Assistant Government Agents in all districts. A Food Production Department was created in 1952 staffed by Food Production Officers, whose designation was later changed to Krushikarma Vyaptha Sevaka (KVS). Individuals who completed one-year training course at practical farm schools, were appointed as frontline Extension Officers while District Agriculture Extension Officers were made responsible for undertaking agricultural activities in their respective administrative districts (total 22 in 1956). In 1963, the Division of Agriculture Extension was created within the Department of Agriculture, which expanded extension activities beyond rice crop.

During 1980s and early 1990s, Sri Lanka’s extension services were strengthened under two World Bank-financed projects. First, Agricultural Extension and Adaptive Research Project, which followed the Training & Visit (T&V) system of extension; second, the Second Agricultural Extension Project, which followed Integrated Agricultural Extension System (IAES) and mainly focuses on non-plantation crops. In 1993, Sri Lanka’s extension services also benefitted from the North-Western Province Dry Zone Participatory Development Project, which was financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Germany. This project followed Participatory Technology Development (PTD) approach.

There are many factors which have positively or negatively influenced the working of extension. A few of them are as follows.

Devolution: The devolution in this country comprising diverse ethnic groups has shifted political power to provincial councils, undermining the entire agricultural extension system in several aspects. For example, extension workers now have been given non-extension tasks. The flow of information between farmers, traders, extension workers, researchers and policy makers has been disturbed. Institutional coordination has also suffered.

ICT initiatives: Starting 2003, the government has been taking widespread ICT initiatives that have created a “cyber extension” mechanism. The e-Sri Lanka drive aims “to take the dividends of ICT to every village, to every citizen and to every business and transform the way the government thinks and works.”

Multiple extension services: Extension activities are now handled by as many as nine ministries, at least a dozen public departments, semi-autonomous bodies, research institutes, as well as private and civil society extension service providers that engage farmers independently to deliver their extension advice on various technical subjects. These services are indeed fragmented and very complex to comprehend. There is no coordination among these different service providers nor is there any policy guidance or effective quality assurance by the diversified government bureaucracy, a situation which causes confusion and frustration among many farming communities. Most farmers do not know which extension organization to go to for their specific technical assistance.

Poor field approaches: Presently, extension approaches being followed are top-down and commodity driven with little involvement of farmers in program planning. The number of farmers to be covered by each Agriculture Instructor varies from 1,000 to 7,000 depending on the geographical location. With hardly any physical facilities and low salaries, the extension staff finds it more tempting to serve the government-subsidized estate crops growers rather than the majority of small farmers, livestock owners and in-land fishermen.

Following the tsunami disaster and after the end of a lengthy civil war in the country, many bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors have been active in providing various types of support. Main donors currently functioning in Sri Lanka include the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IFAD, UNDP, Japan, Russia, AusAid, CIDA, China, Iran and The Netherlands.


Extension Providers

Major Institutions Providing Extension/Advisory Services

Public Institutions

Ministry of Agriculture

The Ministry of Agriculture has the following units:

  • Enterprises Development Unit
  • Development Unit
  • Planning, Monitoring Unit
  • Natural Resource Management Unit
  • Northern Development Units

In addition, the Ministry has a Division of Agricultural Technology as well as a central Department of Agriculture.

Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture is headed by a Director-General. Under him are Assistant Director-General for Research & Development and Assistant Director-General for Agriculture Services. Also, there are Directors for various technical areas, such as research & development, extension & training, and information & communication.

The Department of Agriculture consists of three research and development institutes one each for rice, field crops and horticultural crops. In addition, the department has six technical service centers, one each for seed certification & plant protection, seed & planting material development, extension & training, socio-economic & planning, natural resource management, and progress monitoring & evaluation unit.

The Department of Agriculture (DOA) is responsible for extension activities in especially selected irrigation schemes called Inter-Provincial Irrigation Areas. For the largest irrigation scheme in the country, Mahaweli, an autonomous organization, Mahaweli Development Authority of Sri Lanka, was created many years ago which may soon be re-structured. For more information on the DOA, see:

The Extension and Training Center of the department undertakes activities in the following four areas: (a) Extension; (b) Training; (c) Communication; (d) Agricultural education and examination.

Farm Women Agriculture Extension (FWAE) wing was established in the department in 1970. It supposedly works solely for the women in the food crops sector. As such, its activities are planned by the food crops sector.

Human resources: According to the Administration Report of the Department of Agriculture, in the year 2010, the total number of extension staff (technical and management) was 583. This number included technical and senior management staff. In addition, the number of support staff (drivers, secretaries, financial and administrative personnel) in extension was 359.

Major Categories of Extension Staff

Sec. school dip.

2-3 yr. Ag diploma

B.Sc. degree

M.Sc. /Ing. Agr. Deg.

Ph.D. degree












Senior Management Staff








Subject Matter Specialists (SMS)





Field-level Extension Staff





Information, Communications & Technology (ICT) Staff



Total Extension Staff: 263







Provincial Departments

Due to decentralization in 1989, agriculture and livestock sectors, including extension services, were devolved to provincial departments of agriculture and livestock. The only provincial extension department where we were able to gain data about the extension staff in the North Western Province (see:

Semi-autonomous Agencies

There are several semi-autonomous, semi-government agencies which have their own extension staff to provide extension advice to the farmers. A few examples of such bodies are:

  • Department of Export Agriculture
  • Coconut Cultivation Board
  • Tea Small Holdings Development Authority
  • Rubber Development Department

Agricultural Research Institutes

The Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy (CARP) is the apex body of the national agricultural research system. Two ministries are involved in research. First, the Ministry of Agriculture, which covers all aspects of domestic agriculture including policy and crops like rice, fruits, vegetables, legumes, other field crops, spices and ornamental plants. Second, the Ministry of Plantation Industries, which has the following research institutes:

  • Tea Research Institute
  • Rubber Research Institute
  • Sugar Research Institute
  • Coconut Research Institute (coconut and oil palm)

One of the mandated functions of the CARP is to disseminate technology and scientific information to agricultural scientists, farmers, private sector and other stakeholders. As such, all of these research institutes, and those belonging to the Forest Department and the Animal Production & Health Department, have their own extension activities.

  • Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI):

This institute is located in Colombo within the Ministry of Agriculture and does offer extension training in areas such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), market-oriented extension activities, organizing producer groups, etc. These training programs can be found on their website. Its mandate is to focus on social, economic and institutional aspects of research and extension training as opposed to hardcore technology advances. The institute was established in 1972 as a statutory board in collaboration with UNDP/FAO. HARTI is administrated by a Board of Governors, chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture, which includes representatives from various ministries and other organizations related to the development of rural and agrarian sectors in Sri Lanka.

Non-Public Institutions

Private sector

A project that explored the feasibility of initiating private advisory service for farmers was the Second Perennial Crops Development Project, financed by the Asian Development Bank, implemented from 1998 to 2007. An evaluation report issued by the Bank mentions one of the lessons learnt from the project as follows:

“The project confirmed the high development potential for perennial crops and reconfirmed the creditworthiness of smallholder farmers. The experience of the pilot activity under the Project showed that potential exists in Sri Lanka for a gradual introduction of a fee-levying private extension services among commercial farmers with a better ability to pay, leaving scarce government resources to serve the poor and subsistence-level groups of farmers more effectively. However, to be profitable, private sector extension services must be integrated into other commercial operations, such as the sale of farm inputs. A company set up solely to provide extension services may not be viable in the long term.”

In a 2008 survey of farmers’ opinions regarding the feasibility of starting a private extension service, a huge majority of the respondents said that it is not feasible. The main reason given was that the majority of Sri Lankan farmers are small and poor.

Presently, there is no established private agricultural extension services provider as such in Sri Lanka which provides extension services to farmers on regular basis, that is, alongside the public extension organization. There are rare examples of successful public-private partnership, one of them being in maize production program during mid-1990s in which the Department of Agriculture, an international NGO Agent and a private company CAI (Private) Ltd. joined hands. Some of the private companies that sell agricultural inputs, machinery and equipment, or are involved in plantation agriculture and that trades or exports certain commodities like tea, and that do provide advisory services for selected growers. These advisory services are normally not fee-based but rather a marketing tool to promote companies’ products or to ensure the quality of raw produce that relevant companies buy from its producers. Many companies work with farmers under contracts. Some companies have mobile services and some have sales offices in many parts of the country.

Sri Lanka is also trying urban agricultural extension in Colombo with an aim to assist “family business garden” phenomenon. Another novel extension experience was an FAO project TCP/SRL/3003, under which physically disabled rural people were given training to develop certain skills for sustainable livelihoods.

Examples of such private companies based in Sri Lanka are as follows:

  • A Baur & Co. (Pvt.) Ltd
    The company covers plantation sector and small holders of tea, rubber, coconut and export crops. It also sells fertilizers and chemical farm inputs. The company has its own extension staff. Its advisory services include extension officers visits to estates and farmers to advise on inputs to optimize production and quality, education of farmers and planters in good management practices, training of planters and farmers in integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated nutrient management (INM) to achieve sustained yield increments, and advising tea factories and agriculture produce processors on monitoring quality parameters and improving quality aspects
  • CIC Agri Businesses (Private) Limited
    This company manages over 10,000 acres of its own farm land in Sri Lanka. In 2009 it indicated that it has 110 extension staff that work directly with over 20,000 farmers that produce a variety of agricultural and livestock products like paddy seed, rice, fruits, vegetables, eggs, yoghurt, etc. The company has a strong commitment to enhancing farmers’ incomes. CIC Agri Businesses (Private) Ltd. Comprises at least ten such as CIC Seeds (Private) Ltd., CIC Agri Biotech (Private) Ltd., CIC Agro Produce Export, etc.
  • Brown and Company, PLC
    This company indicates that it has pioneered agriculture mechanization in Sri Lanka and now stands in the forefront of agriculture and plantation sector. This company has partnerships with the rubber, tea and sugar industries. Its Agriculture Division sells imported tractors, harvesters, and other farm machinery.

A few examples of tea exporting companies are:

  • Maskeliya Tea Export (Private) Ltd.
  • BPL Teas (Pvt.) Ltd.
  • Qualitea Ceylon (Pvt.) Ltd.

An example of companies that sell a variety of agricultural products is Ceylinco Multicrop Exporters (Private) Ltd. which exports fruits, vegetables and flowers. Another company HJS Condiments specializes in manufacturing and exporting pickle based exotic products.

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Sri Lanka has a large number of national and international NGOs. The government has the Center for Non-Governmental Sector to facilitate the coordination and functioning of NGOs. Some of these NGOs are active in rural community development and, as such, undertake a variety of activities including extension. Most of these NGOs work either under donors’ funded projects or they work alongside international NGOs, mainly due to their lack of independent, sustained funding sources. Examples of NGOs are as follows:

  • Care International (works in partnership with local NGOs on a variety of projects, some that are related to rural development)
  • Sarvodaya (probably largest NGO in Sri Lanka; works on several fronts including political, economic and legal, and some are related to rural development; they have a chapter in USA)
  • Agromart Foundation (focus is on empowering rural women through entrepreneurships)
  • Gami Sewa (promoting organic agriculture)

Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

There are literally thousands of farmers-based associations, cooperatives and companies in Sri Lanka. They are involved in activities like input supply, credit provision, value addition and marketing. Some are involved in irrigation management while some facilitate contract farming with agribusinesses. It is beyond comprehension that in spite of such a large number of farmers-based bodies, why the country still has a rather weak and fragmented extension service. A few examples of farmers’ organizations are given below.

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Saudi Arabia. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.



Training Options for Extension Professionals

Sri Lanka has many well established universities with faculties of agriculture. The most important university is the University of Peradeniya, which does have a Department of Agricultural Extension that offers that offers both degrees and diplomas in agricultural extension. The names, locations and websites for several of these academic institutions follows:

Also, the Sri Lanka School of Agriculture offers a two-year Diploma in Agriculture program. This school runs these programs at five locations in the different districts of the country. Sri Lankans do not have to pay any fee for these services. Also, there is in-service training for agricultural professionals at several institutes. How often this in-service training is received by the extension staff is not known. Some of the institutes under the Department of Agriculture are listed below.

  • Rice Research and Development Institute (RRDI)
  • Horticultural Crop Research and Development Institute (HORDI)
  • Field Crops Research and Development Institute (FCRDI)
  • In-Service Training Institutes (ISTI) of the Extension & Training Division located at Gannoruwa, Angunakolapalassa, and Aranaganwila
  • District Training Centers (DTC) located at Weerawila and Ampara
  • Sri Lanka School of Agriculture (at eight different locations)
  • Farm Mechanization Training Center (FMTC)

Also, the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research & Training Institute, described in an earlier section, is a semi-autonomous institution under the Ministry of Agriculture, located in Colombo.



Info-mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension

The Government of Sri Lanka has been taking serious initiatives to apply ICT to the agriculture sector (ICT4Agriculture). In 2003, the government created the Information and Communication Technology Agency not only to lead the implementation of e-Sri Lanka initiative but also to serve as the apex body for ICT development in the country. The e-Sri Lanka initiative consists of the following six components: (i) ICT policy, leadership and institutional development; (ii) Re-engineering government; (iii) Information infrastructure; (iv) ICT human resources capacity building; (v) ICT investment and private sector development; (vi) e-society development initiative. According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Sri Lanka was 83.21. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 12.12.

The Audio Visual Center within the Department of Agriculture started establishing a “cyber extension” mechanism to support the existing extension system for farmers in 2004. The mechanism comprises several strategic components and specific creative outputs such as use of IMM CD-ROMs as crop based information material, use of interactive media to develop low-cost audio visual aids, new dimension for web based (Internet) delivery mechanism with CD-ROMs, develop digital training materials for extension and training, distance learning mechanism for agricultural research and production assistants (ARPAs), farmer database for e-marketing, toll-free agriculture advisory service, information dissemination through agro-technology park, Agripedia (Wikipedia on agriculture), agriculture discussion forum, and agriculture e-learning. Indirect benefits foreseen after the establishment of cyber extension include keeping the rural agriculture extension office opened throughout the week; upgrading rural agriculture extension office to the level of National Audio Visual Center; establishment of cyber user groups; and joint ventures with other organizations.

The Extension and Training Center of the Department of Agriculture has recently created a unit to support the entrepreneurs, called Agro-Enterprise Development and Information Service (AgEDIS). Also, the Sarvodaya NGO started agri-clinic model under which farmers’ organizations are harnessing ICT. There are now about 350 telecenters in place, some of them in rural areas.



Resources and References

Asian Development Bank. (May 2009). Sri Lanka: Second Perennial Crops Development Project. Independent Evaluation Department; Reference No. PCV:SRI 2008-70

Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka (no date; probably 2010). ICT for Agriculture in Sri Lanka. Ministry of Agriculture (Available at )

Esham, M., H. Kobayashi, I. Matsumura and A. Alam (no date; probably 2010). Developing and strengthening farmer-agribusiness models in Sri Lanka: Lessons from agriculture cooperatives in Japan (Available at )

FAO (2010). Survey of Extension in Sri Lanka for the Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Hathurusinghe, L.K. (2010). Agriculture extension in Sri Lanka. Paper presented at the Workshop on Rural Development for High-Level Officers of AFACI Member Countries, held at Suwon, Korea, 7-14 August, 2010

Jayathilake, H., B.P.A. Jayaweera and E.C.S. Waidyasekera (2008). ICT adoption and its implications for agriculture in Sri Lanka. Journal of Food and Agriculture, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2008)

Mahaliyanaarachchi, R.P. (2002). Agricultural extension service in Sri Lanka. BeraterInnen News 2/2002; Pp 10-15

Mahaliyanaarachchi, R.P. (2005). Attitudes of agricultural scientists, extension personnel and farmers towards commercialization of the agricultural extension service: A study in Sri Lanka. BeraterInnen News 1/2005, Pp 47-51

Mahaliyanaarachchi, R.P. and R.M.A.S. Bandara (2006). Commercialization of agriculture and role of agricultural extension. Sabaragamuwa University Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, Pp 13-22

Mankotte, K.N. and D. Abeysuriya (2010). Sri Lanka Country Paper, presented at the Consultation Workshop on Market-Oriented Agricultural Extension, organized by FAO in Bangkok 11-13 May, 2010

Qamar, M.K. (26 July 2006). TCP/SRL/3003-Training disabled persons in rural Sri Lanka for sustainable livelihoods: Application of project experiences to other regions. PowerPoint presentation at the national seminar held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the end of the project TCP/SRL/3003. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Ranasinghe, T.T. (October 27, 2006). Approaching with “family business garden”: A new dimension of urban agricultural extension in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Available at

Richardson, D. (2007). ICT Initiatives–the Bridge to Agricultural Extension. PowerPoint presentation at Gartner Lee Limited on June 5, 2007 (Available at

Samuel, R.R. (no date) National agricultural extension systems of Sri Lanka. Power Point presentation (Available at

Sharma, V.P., editor (2006): Report of the APO Seminar on Enhancement of Extension Systems in Agriculture held in Pakistan, 15-20 December 2003. Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo., Sri Lanka, pg. 160-168

Sumanaratne, H.D. (2010). Sri Lanka Consultant’s report for the Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Wadduwage, P. (2006). Sri Lanka Country Paper. Enhancement of Extension Systems (Edited by V.P. Sharma); Pp. 160-167. Tokyo: Asia Productivity Organization (Available at )

Weerakoon, W.M.W. (no date; probably 2007). National agricultural research system in Sri Lanka. (Available at )

World Bank (no date). Contracting Agricultural Extension to Private Sector: The Sri Lankan Experience. Power Point presentation (Available at…/ZipAgExtension1/…/SriLankaContractingExtension.pdf)