Last year was an annus horribilis
for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute.
Rapid migration to cities and towns, driven by scarce public services and jobs in rural areas, is producing a profound social shift in Pacific Island countries, where agrarian life has dominated for generations. But the urban dream remains elusive as a severe lack of housing forces many into sprawling, poorly-serviced informal settlements.
As managing director of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), India’s apex agriculture marketing organisation, Sanjeev Chopra is in the thick of planned legislation to cover 800 million Indians under the world’s biggest food subsidy programme.