Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 2495–2503 | Cite as

Rescaling drought mitigation in rural Sri Lanka

  • Emily BurchfieldEmail author
  • Nicholas E. Williams
  • Amanda R. Carrico
Original Article


Smallholder farmers with limited governmental and institutional support often devise innovative strategies to mitigate the impacts of water stress on agricultural production. These drought mitigation strategies can be more culturally and ecologically suitable than top-down, “technocratic,” strategies. Top-down drought mitigation approaches, however, often link farmers with significant infrastructures, financial resources, and specialized knowledge. Successful rescaling of localized mitigation practices can integrate the benefits of localized mitigation with resources available at larger scales. This paper describes the rescaling of a Sri Lankan drought mitigation practice known as bethma. We focus on the process of rescaling, specifically what is lost and gained when this local practice is implemented at a much larger scale. We identify factors driving participation in bethma and the impacts of this participation on farmer livelihoods. Results suggest that participation in bethma during water-scarce seasons has significant positive impacts on agricultural yields, but that this participation is strongly influenced by the nature of a farmer’s land ownership. Much of the success of bethmas implementation is due to the decentralized, flexible implementation at a regional scale. The loss of localized information, however, influences farmer participation in the practices and the distribution of the benefits associated with bethma.


Drought Mitigation Scale Agriculture Bethma Sri Lanka 



We thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions that improved the paper. We would also like to thank our research assistants, Dilini Abeysekara, Ramesh Ranaweera, and Brindharshini Thiyagaraja, as well as Malaka Dhamruwan for his help in coordinating the research. Thank you to Josh Bazuin for constructive feedback.

Funding information

The US National Science Foundation Water, Sustainability, and Climate grant EAR-1204685 funded this research. Dr. Burchfield thanks the American Institute for Sri Lankan studies for a Dissertation Travel Grant which funded travel to collect qualitative data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment and SocietyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Interdisciplinary and Global Studies DivisionWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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