Indigenous Agricultural Systems in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: Management Transformation Assessment and Sustainability
2. Materials and Methods
3.1. Agricultural Practice in the North Central Dry Zone as Influenced by Indigenous Management
3.1.1. The Irrigated Landscape and the Agriculture System
- Tank bund (Wekanda)—an earthen bund constructed to stop the runoff during the rainy season and so to collect the water for irrigation. The tank bund is the heart of the irrigated landscape.
- Tank (Wewa)—stores the water and is the dominant feature of the landscape. Agriculture, livelihood and regular social behavior is intensely affiliated to the village tank.
- Sluice (Horowwa)—uses a movable gate to control the outflow of water from the tank via canals and is integrated into the tank bund.
- Drainage (Kiul Ela)—the natural valley system and its streams prior to the tank construction, existence based on the flow accumulation and erosion.
- Tree belt (Gasgommana)—a natural vegetation strip in the upstream area of the tank that helps to reduce evaporation by acting as a wind barrier and helps to conserve the biodiversity of the tank environment. Large tree species such as Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) and Maila (Bauhinia racemose) are common in this segment.
- Stream (Ela)—leads runoff water into the tank from the upstream headwater areas.
- Old-field (Purana wela)—this is the command area of the tank, an originally paddy-cultivated field located in the valley bottoms downstream of the earth bund; it is associated with the ancient tank and the service tenants’ lands. Originally, the villagers owned this area communally as it is best supplied with irrigation water.
- Acre field or leased fields (Akkara wela)—newly cultivated fields laid out after the British colonial irrigation and agricultural reforms. Private ownership is common. Supply of irrigated water is less favorable than in the old-fields.
- Slash and burn/chena cultivation fields (hen)—fields with rain-fed agriculture that are located along the divide of the valley that hosts the tank.
- Interceptor (Kattakaduwa)—this area is located immediately downstream of the tank bund; it is densely vegetated with high species diversity. The main purpose is to prevent salt from entering the downstream paddy fields. Furthermore, it acts as a wind barrier.
- Temple—is located in a focal position. Farmers organize main activities among themselves on this monastery land.
- Hamlet (Gangoda)—a village located downstream of the tank close to the paddy fields.
- Scrubland (landa).
3.1.2. Paddy Cultivation
- Farmers allow cattle to graze in the paddy fields after the harvesting season. By this method cow dung and urine are used as fertilizers.
- Green manure is added to the soil during the tillage process. This takes place when the terraced paddy fields (liyadi) are flooded with water after tilling and the vegetation debris from the cleared ridges in the paddy field and the rice straw mix with the water; in this manner a considerable amount of fertilizer is added to the soil.
- Cutting up madu flower (cycus/Cycus circinalis) and placing the sliced pieces in several places and at the same level as the paddy for three days to deter particular insects. Some farmers burn the flowers to achieve an especially strong smell.
- Chopped kohomba leaves (neem tree/Azadirachta indica) are used as pesticides: after being rinsed in a water basket for two weeks they then spread over the paddy fields.
- Chopped kala wel (Derris canarensis) and chopped gliricidi (Gliricidia sepium) are spread over the paddy field to prevent worm infestations.
- Chopped nawahandi (cactus/Rhipsalis baccifera) is spread in the paddy fields to prevent plant worms.
- Chopped and raw papaya fruit is spread to control rats.
- In addition, kem, a secret treatment, is practiced; this is characterized by a number of actions which are believed to be followed by certain reactions. These methods differ according to the individual applying them and are transferred as part of indigenous knowledge.
3.1.3. Slash and Burn/Chena Cultivation
- Wheel chena (mulketa hen) (see Figure 6a): after selecting suitable forestland the farmers divide the land into a cartwheel shape using a permanent landmark (mulketaya) in the center, usually a tree. Each portion is allocated to an individual farmer who participates in the chena cultivation. The farmers enclose the chena land using a strong fence (danduweta) created by bending and binding natural vegetation in the distal part of the mulketa hen this measure especially aims to provide protection from wildlife. For each sector the farmer decides which crop will be planted based on traditional knowledge and experience.
- Line chena (elapath hen, Irivili hen) (see Figure 6b): land management is practiced in a linear manner; also here, the decision as to which crops will be planted is based on traditional knowledge and experience.
3.1.4. Agricultural Rituals
- Pot ceremony (Mutti mangallaya): this ceremony is performed annually when the village tank overflows in the rainy season. With this ritual, the tank and the village dedicate to the village god (Gambara) and pray to him to protect the tank from damage and the village from flooding.
- Milk pot ceremony (Kiri ithiraveema): this is an annual ceremony practiced by the farmers in the tank after the harvest. The beginning of the farming activities for the new season is symbolized by a milk pot set up close to the tank.
3.2. Irrigation and Water Management Framework
3.2.1. Early Initiative—The Vel Vidane System
- Leading and coordinating the maintenance of the tank. The maintenance of the tank bund was based on a system called “Pangu Katti”. The Vel Vidane measured the tank bund and divided it (wekande pota bedima) by a local measure into units called bamba or fathoms (equal to six feet). Based on the size of the paddy land the farmers owned, they were each allocated a portion of the bund for maintenance. This they had to clean by removing termite houses and repairing damage caused by cattle herding. To strengthen the tank bund, sediments from the tanks were used and placed on both flanks of the tank bund.
- Opening and closing the sluice gate as required.
- After the rainy season, the Vel Vidane decided on the type of seeds and the cultivation schedule for each season.
- Preparing the schedule for constructing soil management ridges and terraces (Niyara and liyadi) in the paddy fields.
- Preparing the water schedule for paddy field irrigation.
- Preparing schedules for the harvest protection measures such as fencing and security points (murapal). The Vel Vidane divided the entire paddy field into sectors and decided how many security points were needed to protect the harvest from animals. He had to create schedules for the construction of these security points and for the number of days each farmer had to remain there for vigils. The work was allocated according to the size of the paddy field each farmer owned.
- The Vel Vidane had to decide on the dates for main agricultural events such as ploughing and harvesting. He initiated these activities with the related rituals and customs.
- After each season’s harvest, the Vel Vidane arranged fishing in the entire tank and distributed the fishing harvest to each household in the village.
- Furthermore, his responsibilities included the organization of other common services in the village such as cleaning the villages and cleaning the roads to the village.
3.2.2. Current Management Structure
3.2.3. Issues and Constraints
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|GN Division||No of Farmers||Age||Gender|
|Nuwaragam Palatha Central||11,191||11||592||2491||3057||2613||2427||9192||1999|
|Nuwaragam palatha East||6360||6||252||1218||1794||1616||1474||5062||1298|
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Abeywardana, N.; Schütt, B.; Wagalawatta, T.; Bebermeier, W. Indigenous Agricultural Systems in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: Management Transformation Assessment and Sustainability. Sustainability 2019, 11, 910. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030910
Abeywardana N, Schütt B, Wagalawatta T, Bebermeier W. Indigenous Agricultural Systems in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: Management Transformation Assessment and Sustainability. Sustainability. 2019; 11(3):910. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030910Chicago/Turabian Style
Abeywardana, Nuwan, Brigitta Schütt, Thusitha Wagalawatta, and Wiebke Bebermeier. 2019. "Indigenous Agricultural Systems in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka: Management Transformation Assessment and Sustainability" Sustainability 11, no. 3: 910. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030910