As a junior researcher for LIRNEasia’s agriculture-related projects, he worked with Sriganesh Lokanathan and Harsha de Silva in exploring how ICTs can improve farmers’ decision-making abilities by reducing information asymmetry in market price information, and thereby improving livelihoods. He left LIRNEasia in May 2011 to join Rural Returns (Guarantee) Limited, a non-profit organization aimed at economically empowering rice-farming communities in Sri Lanka. Iran holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, specializing in agriculture economics from Rajarata University of Sri Lanka; he was reading for his postgraduate degree in organizational management from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka at the time of his departure.
Iran is a Rice Project Executive, for Rural Returns (Guarantee) LTD. Rural Returns is a non-profit organization engaged in empowering Sri Lankan rice farming communities by facilitating higher profits for farmers, through the process of selling sustainably cultivated, traditional rice varieties to global markets. Iran’s role at Rural Returns involves matching the supply of Sri Lankan traditional rice varieties with market demand, both locally and internationally. Iran says his time at LIRNEasia has contributed significantly to his work because his work at LIRNEasia was also related to agriculture and market access.
Iran joined LIRNEasia as a Junior Researcher in October 2010 and was involved in a number of agriculture related projects until May 2011. The research projects explored how ICTs can be used to improve decision making abilities of local farmers to enhance their incomes, by reducing asymmetry of market price information.
“I was mainly involved in coordinating office and field activities to implement the projects. My work helped me gain an excellent understanding about agriculture in Sri Lanka and problems faced by farming communities,” says Iran.
Because of his field work, Iran developed a wide contact base of farmers, farmer organisations and other parties involved in agriculture in Sri Lanka. He also gained experience in conducting research involving farmer communities, through surveys, focus groups and meetings. In addition, Iran also developed the skill of report writing. Many of these attributes, says Iran, are applicable, in varying degrees, to his current work.
“Although I am not involved in conducting research at Rural Returns, many other aspects of my work at LIRNEasia are extremely useful in my work, particularly the knowledge I gained about farming practices, agriculture markets and contacts with farming communities,” says Iran.
“Due to my extensive dealings with farming communities, I am extremely adept at conducting meetings and communicating with farming communities. In addition, my contact base in the agriculture sector has been useful in many different ways. Project coordination and report writing skills that I developed at LIRNEasia have also been of practical use,” he explains.
Rural Returns is currently considering various research projects in line with the organisation’s core objective of empowering rice farmers. “I am confident my research experience from LIRNEasia will contribute significantly towards successful implementation and management of these research projects,” says Iran.
In addition, his involvement in LIRNEasia’s Trade Net project that examined the use of mobile phones to convey prices of agricultural items from wholesale markets to farmers, gave Iran the opportunity to supervise an undergraduate thesis of a Ruhuna University, Agriculture Faculty student. “I had explained the Trade Net project to an undergraduate at Ruhuna University and as a result of this, another student contacted me and asked me to supervise her thesis. The university also formally invited me to act as an external supervisor for the student, due to my experience with the Trade Net project,” says Iran. The thesis, titled “Use of information and communication technology in vegetable marketing in Sri Lanka,” has ensured ongoing personal linkages with the University for Iran.