Periclean Scholars Class of 2023 support local agricultural initiatives in Sri Lanka

This effort supports the work of Sarvodaya in an island-wide plan to promote local agriculture and increase food security and family income.

The Class of 2023 Periclean Scholars at Elon University are working to support agricultural efforts in Sri Lanka to combat the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the island nation of Sri Lanka, the pandemic has hampered the ability of people to access fresh and healthy food, particularly in urban areas where small-scale agriculture can be uncommon. Pandemic lockdowns and mandated home confinements have constrained access to markets and grocery stores.

Domestic agricultural production has been curtailed, owing to a recent ban on the use of chemical fertilizers that was implemented without first educating farmers on effective organic fertilization strategies. Restrictions on international trade have decreased critical food imports and the cost of available food has further increased due to a foreign exchange crisis. Additionally, the pandemic has negatively impacted employment in many industries across Sri Lanka, particularly within the tourism sector, leading to lost wages and a decreased ability of many families to afford high-quality food.

To address these issues, Sarvodaya, which is the oldest and largest NGO in Sri Lanka, and partner organization to the Periclean Scholars Class of 2023, is working to promote a home and community gardening initiative that is educating urban community members regarding effective small-scale agricultural practices, and promoting the development of urban agricultural capacity.

Additionally, Sarvodaya is also working to create local market pathways through which agricultural products that are produced in excess of household consumption can be sold locally/regionally, thus providing much-needed household income to local producers. With this project, Sarvodaya hopes to:

  • Ensure food security for local households that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 related food-access pressures.
  • Create sustainable income-generating opportunities for local communities through the promotion of local small-scale agriculture.
  • Create and support new food distribution channels and markets at the level of local communities.
  • Train and employ adults that are currently outside of the active labor force (due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic) in agricultural-related activities.
  • Promote the use of organic composts/fertilizer in these efforts, and increase access to such organic composts/fertilizer, as well as to high-quality seeds.

Throughout the summer, the members of the Periclean Scholars Class of 2023 have been leveraging resources within their own communities to raise funds to support this critical initiative. To date, the scholars have raised over $1,000 in direct financial assistance for this work. The scholars’ engagement with this project will continue throughout the current academic year.

If interested in learning more or getting involved, please reach out to Mathew Gendle, the faculty mentor for the Periclean Scholars Class of 2023 at or 336-278-6431.