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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Monday, May 02, 2005

Iron and zinc-rich rice needed to tackle Lanka's lethargy and "sleepiness"

Daily News: "Rice Research and Development Institute's dream project grounded for want of funds, 30/04/2005 BY AFREEHA Jawad

"People today don't get a balanced meal. Their health is at a low ebb. People are sleepy and lethargic as their iron and zinc intake is poor. Schoolchildren and pregnant mothers are badly affected.

So our idea is to produce rice rich in zinc and iron to be cooked straight off the packet - all unwashed to preserve the nutrients as done abroad", said Dr. Nimal Dissanayake, Deputy Director, Rice Research and Development Institute, Bathalagoda, when this writer met him there last week.

But to start on research to achieve Bathalagoda's this second goal, - the first a resounding success in bumper harvests from 13 - 80 bushels per acre - much money is needed which amount according to him is Rupees three million to buy those costly chemicals and equipment. He even welcomed the assistance in kind instead of cash, proving the bona fide intention.

Hailing Government's initiative of keeping Sri Lankans off their much fancied speciality - bread - Dr. Dissanayake said:

"The Government's aim of a 40 per cent increase in rice production and 20 per cent decrease in flour consumption is a healthy sign. We have told them how to realize this target, starting from seed paddy production, farmer facilitation, such as fertilizer, market price, credit and so on and also research - the institute's biggest bug bear.

Elaborating on rice consumption for health purposes he spoke of how it scored over wheat in nutrients. Rice is high in iron, fibre and bereft of glutonine - the very ingredient that makes wheat flour stretchable - a great facilitator in bread preparation.

"The high nutrient whole grain wheat flour is an off market product. So it's best to eat more rice and diabetics in particular need to keep off wheat flour".

Interestingly, his revelation of the city dweller as having the lowest nutrition levels is noteworthy as opposed to the estate worker and fisherfolk that recorded high nutrient content.

Laughingly, yet significantly he added; "Remember, pol sambol and rice makes a good meal high in nutrients and that's certainly not the urban crowd's choice who invariably are voraciously into wheat flour based junk food.

Sri Lankans fighting for time in their tight schedule of daily activity obviously prefer the ready to eat loaf as against the ordeal of destoning and washing rice.

If they are to be weaned off the infamous yet much loved and convenient loaf into nutrition filled rice, it has to be at their disposal - all drudgery free. Let's keep our fingers crossed for the day when the Sri Lankan housewife would be emptying an unwashed rice packet straight into the pan to be taken off the fire in the shortest possible time.

The Bathalagoda scientists are ready for this but then ... what of the political will? If much monies could be doled out on political tamashas during election time and otherwise, buying those chemicals and equipment for research to arrive at Bathalagoda's next grand scheme should not be that difficult.

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