Livelihood improvement of farming communities vulnerable to land degradation and climate changewca2014-2175 Sarath P. Nissanka 1,*B.V.R. Punyawardena 2,Tharuka Dissanaike 3,Shireen Samarasuriya 3,Dilani Jayasinghe 3 1Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, 2Natural Resources Management Centre, Department of Agriculture, Peradeniya, 3UNDP, Colombo, Sri Lanka
: The land degradation mainly due to heavy soil erosion is a common problem in agricultural fields especially in central highlands of Sri Lanka where farming is the main livelihood of majority of the rural communities in these regions. Climate change is evident in the intense and erratic distribution of seasonal rainfall with frequent droughts and floods and increased ambient temperature across the country, all of which affect livelihood options of rural villagers engaged in agriculture. Adaptation to climate change through different livelihood improvement approaches together with proper soil and moisture conservation measures to reduce land degradation were experimented using 200 farm families in one of the most vulnerable region (Walapane in the Nuwara Eliya District) as a community based case study.
Detailed ecological and socio-economic surveys conducted before and after project implementation period of two years revealed that capacity building carried out during the project period resulted a significant improvement on the use of proper land management of both chena land and homegarden (4 fold), residue management and preparation of own compost ( 8 fold), use of organic fertilizer (8 fold), cultivation of the drought resistant crop varieties and development of a seed bank system, improvement of livelihood development activities through homegarden development, micro-enterprise development and revolving a loan fund etc. Establishment of 33 km long Gliricidia based hedgerows along contours across farm lands conserve around 1800-2400 m3 of soil volume after one-year period. Introduction of alternative livelihood options such as dairy farming for this crop based farming community enhanced family income (Rs 8000 per month) and nutrition status. 93% of the families reported that species diversity and productivity of their homegardens improved significantly. This study proved that less capable, affected and vulnerable communities could be converted into capable, resilient and productive through capacity building with proper guidance.