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Institutional perspectives of agroecological farming systems in Sri Lanka


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Tennakoon, HS 2005 , 'Institutional perspectives of agroecological farming systems in Sri Lanka', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Food security remains a crucial policy issue in developing countries as well as for the whole world. In recent times, subsistence farming systems based on indigenous agricultural practices have been gaining wider acceptance because of their significance for the livelihoods of the rural poor, and for the protection of the environment in developing countries. However, these systems have been largely disregarded on an institutional level. This study focuses on two types of subsistence agriculture in Sri Lanka that come under the category of agroecological farming systems namely, chena cultivation and Kandyan homegardens. The overarching purpose of this research was to understand how people in formal institutional structures perceived agroecological approaches to agriculture since their perspectives may have significant effects on policy formulation and implementation within the agriculture sector. It is expected that such understanding will contribute to scholarship in environmental management as well as policy development and application to ensure food security of the rural poor in Sri Lanka. This study drew on the qualitative research methodologies. One group of research participants were chosen from within district, division and village level institutional structures of the Sri Lankan government while another group was chosen from the Department of Agriculture and educational and research organizations at the national level. In meeting my research objectives I used two sets of questionnaires to collect data and hermeneutic and discourse analyses of participants' responses to distil meanings embedded in them.
I have presented my exploration of institutional perspectives under four sub-sections namely sustainable agriculture; agroecological production systems; chena cultivation and Kandyan homegardens; and institutional issues. The findings of the study drew attention to some salient views. In general ideas of environmental protection and meeting of human goals were central to the administrative officials' perspectives of sustainable agriculture. Their perceptions related to extension and training, participatory research and resource management revealed an openness towards community empowerment and power-sharing, endorsing a considerable degree of social equity in agricultural development. However, there is the belief that the impasse to sustainable agriculture outcomes is an unsupportive policy framework that favours a technology based, profit-oriented, agro-business model. On the other hand there is general consensus that traditional farming systems are appropriate models for achieving environmentally sound and socially responsive agricultural outcomes specially for marginalized farming communities. Administrative officials attitudes towards chena cultivation in general ranged from ideas of approval to mixed impressions of its environmental soundness. The concept of stabilized chena cultivation appears to be open to debate and yet the lack of alternatives seems to suggest that what is required is a better understanding of the underlying factors that contribute to poor land management among present day chena cultivators. Kandyan homegardens on the other hand was acknowledged as having advantageous biological and ecological functions. Both farming systems were deemed as significant for survival of resources poor farmers. Despite the technocratic approach urged by the existing policy directives the attitudes of most administrative officials appear to embrace ideas that acknowledged social needs. In general an agroecological approach that coalesces traditional practices with scientific understanding leading to an agricultural paradigm that is suited to present day needs was viewed as an appropriate solution to the challenges facing Sri Lanka's agriculture sector.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Tennakoon, HS
Keywords: Agriculture, Sustainable agriculture, Agricultural ecology
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Copyright 2005 the author

Additional Information:

Thesis (MEnvMgt)--University of Tasmania, 2005. Includes bibliographical references

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