Resource management in traditional farming : A case study in the dry zone of Sri Lanka
Sammanfattning: The potential of the traditional small irrigation systems in Sri Lanka has to a great extent been overlooked in the efforts to satisfy increasing food requirements and to bring about social development in rural communities. The aim of this study was to arrive at an improved understanding of the resource management ofthe traditional farming system in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. Irrigation through small village tanks plays a significant role in this context.A farming system approach was used. It implies that the coordination of activities within a farm setting, and the farmers' reliance on the different parts of the system, can be properly dealt with. Different geographical and temporal perspectives facilitated the analyses of the interactions anddependencies between man and his environment. The information and data forming the basis of the analyses were collected between 1984-1986. The small irrigation system under study is located in a mini-catchment in the north-central part of Sri Lanka.For paddy cultivation in the lowlands, water is an obvious constraint. Water scarcity adversely affected both yield and cultivation intensity. Within a single paddy tract yield variation was considerable. Apart from water scarcity the variation was closely related to distance from the watersource. With sufficient water it seems that the explanations to variations in yield should be sought for in terms of management factors and incidental problems like damage by wild animals.A declining ratio of tank capacity to potential acreage for paddy cultivation has since the 1930's been a contributing factor to a single annual crop of paddy. The increasing population pressure and the reduced intensity of paddy cultivation has led to changes in reliance on the various parts of the farming system. This has led to a shortening of the cultivation cycle in the highlands. In the lowlands the better-off farmers were the early adapters of the 'green revolution package'. Currently however, it is within the highlands that most of the changes occur and it is the poor farmer who seems to be the main agent of change.On a village level the system's resilience to an environmental hazard was demonstrated. A breach of a tank bund disrupted the possibility for cultivation during two consecutive seasons. The crops lost were compensated for by various traditional practices such as share cropping.Coordination of land and water use was evident on a village level whereas no such arrangements exist between the villages within the catchment. There arc indications of conflicts both between the villages and between cultivators with individually and communally operated land within a village. For an optimal utilization of water and land resources it is essential to comprehend and deal with the conflicts which threaten the management of the system.
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