Responding to climate change in Sri Lanka 

Learn more about our research project in Sri Lanka.

Small-scale farmers in developing countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change. The ADAPT-SL (Agriculture Decision-making and Adaptation to Precipitation Trends) project aims to gain a better understanding of how farmers in Sri Lanka in particular  are adjusting their practices to deal with climate change effects. Since 2010, I and other colleagues from Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Energy and Environment (VIEE) have partnered with the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) in Sri Lanka to examine the connections between agricultural adaptation and climate change in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. I co-lead the qualitative research effort in the Sri Lanka project. The qualitative research team’s efforts encompass both policy research and research about the every day experiences of Sri Lankan farmers.  Through interviews with farmers, government officials, leaders of farmer cooperatives, and staff of non-government organizations, we seek to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts which affect agriculture and agricultural decision making in Sri Lanka. We have interviewed several dozen officials from governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations and conducted archival and policy analysis work. In addition, we have conducted oral histories with 50 Sri Lankan farmers and 6 farmer focus groups.  To date, our analytic work has focused on the role debt plays in paradoxically making farmers both vulnerable and resilient to environmental disasters.  We are also examining the political economy and political ecology of water, irrigation, and agriculture in Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on understanding how nationalistic sentiments derived from references to historic irrigation achievements are deployed in post-conflict, agricultural, and environmental discourses and decision making.  Finally, we have been curious about the role farmer cooperatives and farmer organizations play in mediating between individual farmers as consumers of irrigation services and the government bureaucracies which manage the irrigation system.


Below are images from the Vanderbilt University research team's trip to Sri Lanka in 2013.