A Study on Agriculture Adaptation Practices in Sri Lanka

Coping with climatic uncertainty is an eternal challenge faced by farmers all over the world. Farmers have faced the challenge by making regular adjustments to moderate, cope with or take advantage of actual or expected variability/change of climate. This process of adjustments is called adaptation. Sri Lanka is a developing nation with a significant poor population engaged in livelihoods relating to agriculture.  Farmers in Sri Lanka have a long history of climate adaptation. This report examines key adaptive practices developed by them in the struggle for coping with climatic shocks. It begins with an overview of climatic conditions in Sri Lanka and their implications on farmers.  There are two major climatic zones in Sri Lanka―wet zone and dry zone. The report focusses mainly on adaptation practices of dry zone farmers since dry zone is the major agricultural area in the country and they are the more vulnerable group farmers to impacts of climate change.  Three broad forms of adaptation measures are identified: long-term structural adaptations, medium-term strategic adaptations and short-term tactical adaptations.  Out of them, the study examined three selected adaptation practices as case studies. They are: (a) rainwater harvesting in village tanks, (b) tapping shallow groundwater through agro-wells, and (c) adoption of climate resilient traditional varieties and agronomic practices. The study assessed the background and rationale of respective practices and identified technical, economic and institutional/social potential of them. It also evaluated the challenges that may emerge under changing climatic patterns and socio-economic conditions.  Finally, attention is directed to assess the lessons that can be learnt about the overall strategy, individual and joint actions and the roles of local institutions and indigenous knowledge in adaptation.

Research team

Athula Senaratne
Chatura Rodrigo