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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Ahamed AI, Somaratne WG, Simmons M (2007) Analysis of the marketing potential of SRI Rice in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. Report to Oxfam Australia

  2. Aheeyar MMM, Henegedara GM, Rupasena LP (2005) The cost of production of rice in Kegalle and Kurunegala Districts of Sri Lanka. Research study No. 115: Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

  3. Bambaradeniya CNB, Amerasinghe FP (2003) Biodiversity associated with rice field agroecosystem in Asian countries: a brief review. Working paper 63, International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

  4. Boyd CE (2003) Guidelines for aquaculture effluent management at the farm-level. Aquaculture 226:101–112

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Castonguay AC, Burkhard B, Müller F, Horgan FG, Settele J (2016) Resilience and adaptability of rice terrace social-ecological systems: a case study of a local community’s perception in Banaue, Philippines. Ecol Soc 21:15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Catling D (1992) Rice in deep water. Macmillan Press, London

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Chandana EPS, Rajapaksha ACD, Samarasekara WGKH (2012) A survey of odonate assemblages associated with selected wetland localities in southern Sri Lanka. Asian J Conserv Biol 1:67–73

    Google Scholar 

  8. Chandrabose AS (2014) Cultural identity of Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka: a measurement of multi-dimensional status of the Indian Tamil society in Sri Lanka. In: Garg S (ed) Circulation of cultures and culture of circulation: diasporic cultures of South Asia during 18th to 20th centuries. SAARC Culture Centre, Galle, pp 145–163

    Google Scholar 

  9. Clements T, Milner-Gullard EJ (2015) Impact of payments for environmental services and protected areas on local livelihoods and forest conservation in northern Cambodia. Conserv Biol 29:78–87

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. De Alwis Goonatilake S (2012) The taxonomy and conservation status of freshwater fishes in Sri Lanka. In: Weerakoon DK, Wijesundara S (eds) The national red list 2012 of Sri Lanka: conservation status of the fauna and flora. Ministry of Environment, Colombo, pp 77–81

    Google Scholar 

  11. De Silva CS, Weatherhead EK, Knox JW, Rodriguez-Diaz JA (2007) Predicting the impacts of climate change—a case study of paddy irrigation water requirements in Sri Lanka. Agric Water Manag 93:19–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. De Silva BCJ, Gayathri-R HW, Nilmini-NH HM, Pathum-S AM, Chathuranga WD, Mahesh-BR Ranasinghage, de Amarasinghe-NJ S, Chandana EPS (2015) Notes on lesser whistling duck and other aquatic birds in ‘Kirala Kele’ sanctuary, Matara, Sri Lanka. Int J Anim Biol 1:215–218

    Google Scholar 

  13. Department of Agriculture (2016) Performance report 2015. Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

  14. Deturck P, Weerasinghe KDN, Gunarathna DABN, Lexa JP, Vlassak K (1993) Rice production on acid sulfate soils of Sri Lanka. International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, Wageningen

    Google Scholar 

  15. Fernando SLJ, Shariff NM (2015) The relationship between land use/land cover change and factors for ecotourism development in the partial nature based wetland using remote sensing and GIS techniques. Int J Sci Res Innov Technol 2:82–92

    Google Scholar 

  16. Fernando GWAR, Suranganee RKN (2009) Development of acid sulfate soils in Nilwala Flood Protection area, Matara, Sri Lanka. J Geol Soc Sri Lanka 13:71–82

    Google Scholar 

  17. Fujita D, Kohli A, Horgan FG (2013) Rice resistance to planthoppers and leafhoppers. Crit Rev Plant Sci 32:162–191

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Gleissman SR, Garcia RE, Amador MA (1981) The ecological basis for the application of traditional agricultural technology in the management of tropical agro-ecosystems. Agro-ecosystems 7:173–185

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, Muir JF, Pretty J, Robinson S, Thomas SM, Toulmin C (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327:812–818

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Gunaratne A, Bentota A, Cai YZ, Collado L, Corke H (2011) Functional digestibility, and antioxidant properties of brown and polished rice flour from traditional and new-improved varieties grown in Sri Lanka. Starch 63:485–492

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Gunaratne A, Wu K, Li D, Bentota A, Corke H, Cai Y-Z (2013) Antioxidant activity and nutritional quality of traditional red-grained rice varieties containing proanthocyanidins. Food Chem 138:1153–1161

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Gurr GM, Lu Z, Zheng X, Xu H, Zhu P, Chen G, Yao X, Cheng J, Zhu Z, Catindig JL, Villareal S, Chien HV, Cuong LQ, Channoo C, Chengwattana N, Lan LP, Hai LH, Chaiwong J, Nicol HI, Perovic DJ, Wratten SD, Heong KL (2016) Multi-country evidence that crop diversification promotes ecological intensification of agriculture. Nat Plants 2:16014

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Hettiarachchi P, Jiffry MTM, Jansz ER, Wickramasinghe AR, Fernando DJS (2001) Glycaemic indices of different varieties of rice grown in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Med J 46:11–14

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Horgan FG, Felix IM, Portalanza DE, Sánchez L, Moya Rios WM, Farah SE, Wither JA, Andrade CI, Espin EB (2014) Responses by farmers to the apple snail invasion of Ecuador’s rice fields and attitudes toward predatory snail kites. Crop Prot 62:135–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Horgan FG, Ramal AF, Bernal CC, Villegas JM, Stuart AM, Almazan ML (2016) Applying ecological engineering for sustainable and resilient rice production systems. Proc Food Sci 6:7–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Horgan FG, Ramal AF, Villegas JM, Almazan MLP, Bernal CC, Jamoralin A, Pasang JM, Orboc G, Agreda V, Arroyo C (2017) Ecological engineering with high diversity vegetation patches enhances bird activity and ecosystem services in Philippine rice fields. Reg Environ Change 17:1355–1367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hossain ML, Sarker SU, Sarker NJ (2008) Ecology of spotted flapshell turtle, Lissemys punctate (Lacepede, 1788) in Bangladesh. Ecoprint 15:59–67

    Google Scholar 

  28. Husson O, Thanh Phung M, Van Mensvoort MEF (2000) Soil and water indicators for optimal practices when reclaiming acid sulfate soils in the Plain of Reeds, Viet Nam. Agric Water Manag 45:127–143

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Hyne RV, Spolyarich N, Wilson SP, Patra RW, Byrne M, Gordon G, Sanchez-Bayo F, Palmer CG (2009) Distribution of frogs in rice bays within an irrigated agricultural area: links to pesticides usage and farm practices. Environ Toxicol Chem 28:1255–1265

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Kamprath E (1980) Soil acidity in well-drained soils of the tropics as a constraint to food production. In: International Rice Research Institute (ed) Priorities for alleviating soil-related constraints to food production in the tropics. International Rice Research Institute and Cornell University, Los Baños, pp 171–188

    Google Scholar 

  31. Karunanayake MM (1979) Traditional exchange-labour in hill country Sri Lanka: a study of the attam institution. Sri Lanka J Soc Sci 1:109–118

    Google Scholar 

  32. Katoh K, Sakai S, Takahashi T (2009) Factors maintaining species diversity in satoyama, a traditional agricultural landscape of Japan. Biol Conserv 142:1930–1936

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Kumara GDCP, Pethiyagoda NA, Gunawardena WWDA (2012) Avifaunal diversity of Kirala Kele: a man-influenced wetland ecosystem. In: Wijeratne WMMP (ed) Proceedings of the international symposium on agriculture and environment 2012. Ruhuna, Wellmadama, Matara, Sri Lanka, pp 112–114

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kurechi M (2007) Restoring rice paddy wetland environments and the local sustainable society—project for achieving co-existence of rice paddy agriculture with waterbirds at Kabukuri-numa, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Glob Environ Res 12:141–152

    Google Scholar 

  35. Lal T-W (2002) Promoting sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka. In: Hundloe TJ (ed) Linking green productivity to ecotourism. Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo, pp 208–214

    Google Scholar 

  36. Lane SJ, Fujioka M (1998) The impact of changes in irrigation practices on the distribution of foraging egrets and herons (Ardeide) in rice fields of central Japan. Biol Cons 83:221–230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lawler SP (2001) Rice fields as temporary wetlands: a review. Israel J Zool 47:513–528

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Liyanage AW (2012) The possibility for developing a sustainable strategy to solve the conflict between local people and elephants in Hambantota District, Sri Lanka. M.Sc. Thesis University of Agder, Kristiansand, Sri Lanka

  39. Madduma Bandara CM (2009) Exploring the link between culture and biodiversity in Sri Lanka. SANSAI 4:1–23

    Google Scholar 

  40. Manamendra-Arachchi K, Meegaskumbura M (2012) The taxonomy and conservation status of freshwater fishes in Sri Lanka. In: Weerakoon DK, Wijesundara S (eds) The national red list 2012 of Sri Lanka: conservation status of the fauna and flora. Ministry of Environment, Colombo, pp 88–91

    Google Scholar 

  41. Mansfield B (2004) Organic views of nature: the debate over organic certification for aquatic animals. Sociol Rural 44:216–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Marambe B, Pushpakumara G, Silva P (2012) Biodiversity and agrobiodiversity in Sri Lanka: Village tank systems. In: Nakano S-I, Yahara T, Nakashizuka T (eds) The biodiversity observation network in the Asia-Pacific region: toward further development of monitoring. Ecological Research Monographs, Springer, Tokyo, pp 403–430

    Google Scholar 

  43. Moraes BS, Loro VL, Glusczak L, Pretto A, Menezes C, Marchezan E, de Oliveira Machado S (2007) Effects of four rice herbicides on some metabolic and toxicology parameters of teleost fish (Leporinus obtusidens). Chemosphere 68:1597–1601

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Muthayya S, Sugimoto JD, Montgomery S, Maberly GF (2014) An overview of global rice production, supply, trade and consumption. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1324:7–14

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  45. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeler CG, da Fonseca GAB, Kents J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. Nagarajah S, Neue HU, Alberto MCR (1989) Effect of Sesbania, Azolla and rice straw incorporation on the kinetics of NH4, K, Fe, Mn, Zn and P in some flooded rice soils. Plant Soil 116:37–48

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  47. Ota H (2000) Current status of the threatened amphibians and reptiles of Japan. Popul Ecol 42:5–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Parsons KC, Mineau P, Renfrew RB (2010) Effects of pesticide use in rice fields on birds. Waterbirds 33:193–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Pesonen H-L, Horn S (2013) Evaluating the sustainability SWOT as a streamlined tool for life cycle sustainability assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1780–1792

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pierluissi S (2010) Breeding waterbirds in rice fields: a global review. Waterbirds 33:123–132

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Premakumara GAS, Abeysekera WKSM, Ratnasooriya WD, Chandrasekharan NV, Bentota AP (2013) Antioxidant, anti-amylase and anti-glycation potential of brans of some Sri Lankan traditional and improved rice (Oryza sativa L.) varieties. J Cereal Sci 58:451–456

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. Qadir M, Wichelns D, Raschid-Sally L, McCornick PG, Drechsel P, Bahri A, Minhas PS (2010) The challenges of wastewater irrigation in developing countries. Agric Water Manag 97:561–568

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rana S, Jain D (2013) Impact of modern agricultural practices on population density of Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) in Haryana, India. Agric Sci Dig 33:230–233

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Ranganathan J, Ranjit Daniels RJ, Subash Chandran MD, Ehrlich PR, Daily GC (2008) Sustaining biodiversity in ancient tropical countryside. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105:17852–17854

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. Rodrigo C (2013) Traditional paddy cultivation in providing ecological services: resilience against climate change and many more. In: Proceedings of the national conference on livelihoods, biodiversity and ecosystem services, Colombo, Sri Lanka, pp 24–30

  56. Rodrigo C, Abeysekera L (2015) Why the fertilizer subsidy should be removed: key factors that actually derive the fertilizer demand in paddy sector of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka J Econ Res 3:71–98

    Google Scholar 

  57. Samarasekara WGKH, Chandana EPS, de Amarasinghe NJS (2013) A note on bird-habitat relationship in Kirala Kele, Sri Lanka. Taprobanica 5:97–98

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Savary S, Castilla NP, Elazegui FA, Teng PS (2005) Multiple effects of two drivers of agricultural change, labour shortage and water scarcity, on rice pest profiles in tropical Asia. Field Crops Res 91:263–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Schoenly KG, Justo HD, Barrion AT, Harris MK, Bottrell DG (1998) Analysis of invertebrate biodiversity in a Philippine farmer’s irrigated rice field. Environ Entomol 27:1125–1136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Senanayake SMP, Premaratne SP (2016) An analysis of the paddy/rice value chains in Sri Lanka. Australia South Asia Research Centre working paper 2016/4, Sri Lanka

  61. Stuart AM, Palenzuela AN, Bernal CC, Ramal AF, Horgan FG (2014) Effects of fertiliser applications on survival and recruitment of the apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata (Lamarck). Crop Prot 64:78–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Thiruchelvam S (2005) Efficiency of rice production and issues relating to cost of production in the districts of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. J Natl Sci Found Sri Lanka 33:247–256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Tilman D, Balzer C, Hill J, Befort BL (2011) Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:20260–20264

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. Torquebiau E (1992) Are tropical agroforestry home gardens sustainable? Agric Ecosyst Environ 41:189–207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Trang DT, Molbak K, Cam PD, Dalsgaard A (2007) Incidence of and risk factors for skin ailments among farmers working with wastewater-fed agriculture in Hanoi, Vietnam. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 101:502–510

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Tripathi R, Shukla AK, Shahid M, Nayak D, Puree C, Mohanty S, Raja R, Lal B, Gautam P, Bhattacharyya P, Panda BB, Kumar A, Jambhulkar NN, Nayak AK (2016) Soil quality in mangrove ecosystem deteriorates due to rice cultivation. Ecol Eng 90:163–169

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Van Breemen N (1980) Acidity of wetland soils, including histosols, as a constraint to food production. In: Institute International Rice Research (ed) Priorities for alleviating soil-related constraints to food production in the tropics. International Rice Research Institute and Cornell University, Los Baños, pp 189–202

    Google Scholar 

  68. Van Daele W (2013) Igniting food assemblages in Sri Lanka: ritual cooking to regenerate the world and interrelations. Contrib Indian Sociol 47:33–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Van Nguyen N, Ferrero A (2006) Meeting the challenges of global rice production. Paddy Water Environ 4:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Vidanapathirana R, Rambukwella (2008) An analysis of price margins of agro-chemicals. Working paper no. 3: Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

  71. Weerakoon DK, Gunawardena K (2012) The taxonomy and conservation status of birds in Sri Lanka. In: Weerakoon DK, Wijesundara S (eds) The national red list 2012 of Sri Lanka: conservation status of the fauna and flora. Ministry of Environment, Colombo, pp 114–117

    Google Scholar 

  72. Weerasinghe KDN, Basnayake S, Arambepola NMSI, Rathnayake U, Nawaratne C (2014) A local level technology and policy intervention approach to restore paddy ecosystems in the Nilwala downstream, affected due to Nilwala Flood Protection Scheme, southern Sri Lanka. Proc Econ Financ 18:336–344

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Westphal C, Vidal S, Horgan FG, Gurr GM, Escalada M, Chien HV, Tscharntke T, Heong KL, Settele J (2015) Promoting multiple ecosystem services with flower strips and participatory approaches in rice production landscapes. Basic Appl Ecol 16:681–689

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Wildlife Conservation Society (2009) The study of the faunal diversity in Matara District—southern Sri Lanka: final report. Wildlife Conservation Society—Galle, Galle, Sri Lanka

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the farmers and stakeholders for their generosity with time and information. We are particularly grateful to Ravindra Amarasinghe (Tropical Ecology Research Network) for coordinating field activities, and Nimal Dissanayake (Rice Research and Development Institute, Kandy) and Athula Weerarathne (Southern Province Development Authority) for facilitation of interviews and access to information. We thank the Natural Resources Management students (2008–2009) of Sabaragamuwa University for their support with interviews and Jennifer Hernandez for coding data. We thank two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments on the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by the German Ministry of Science and Education (Project: Land-use intensity and Ecological Engineering—Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice based production systems [LEGATO]), the United Nations Development Program (Sri Lanka), the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), the Faculty of Applied Science, Sabaragamuwa University, the Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and donations to the Centre for Compassionate Conservation (UTS).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Finbarr G. Horgan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Horgan, F.G., Kudavidanage, E.P., Weragodaarachchi, A. et al. Traditional ‘maavee’ rice production in Sri Lanka: environmental, economic and social pressures revealed through stakeholder interviews. Paddy Water Environ 16, 225–241 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10333-017-0604-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Acid sulphate soils
  • Ecosystem services
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Farmer surveys
  • Human–wildlife conflict
  • Organic rice