Traditional ‘maavee’ rice production in Sri Lanka: environmental, economic and social pressures revealed through stakeholder interviews

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Paddy and Water Environment, 2018, 16 (2), pp. 225 - 241
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© 2017, The International Society of Paddy and Water Environment Engineering and Springer Japan KK. The Nilwala Ganga Basin of Sri Lanka includes important natural wetlands that are habitat for vulnerable animal and plant species. Flood protection and intensive rice production in the Basin have resulted in degraded acid soils and declining rice yields. However, traditional ‘maavee’ rice production outside the flood protection scheme has continued to generate a high-value rice product. This study reports on interviews conducted with farmers and other stakeholders to document the production practices and the potential environmental and economic benefits associated with maavee rice paddies. The maavee production system has prevailed for at least several decades. Farmers apply no chemicals to their paddies, relying instead on alluvial deposits as a source of nutrients, and on the natural pest and disease resistance of their traditional varieties. The maavee rice product can attain three times the selling price of rice from conventional farms making it more economically viable than conventional rice production. However, much of maavee production is for home consumption and the system is threatened by increasing labour costs, an ageing farming population and pressures to increase rice yields. Non-invasive production practices and the proximity of maavee paddies to regenerating wetlands in the Kirala Kele Sanctuary suggest that traditional paddies may constitute an important habitat for vulnerable wildlife; however, maavee farmers also perceive wetland birds as potentially damaging to rice. Based on a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, we make recommendations for future research needs and potential management actions to safeguard the environmental and economic sustainability of the maavee system.
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