Economic Botany

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 196–206 | Cite as

Assessing the Impacts of Agrobiodiversity Maintenance on Food Security Among Farming Households in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone

  • Nicholas E. WilliamsEmail author
  • Amanda R. Carrico
  • Indika Edirisinghe
  • P. A. Jayamini Champika


Farmers’ maintenance of agrobiodiversity is fundamental to global food security, particularly in a world increasingly affected by climate change. Biodiversity helps to buffer agroecosystems from stresses like climatic variability, and the crop genetic diversity conserved with biodiverse agroecosystems is critical for plant breeding both locally and globally. Yet, despite these benefits, few studies have directly assessed the implications of household–level agrobiodiversity maintenance on household food security. Drawing on survey data collected in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota District, we evaluated the plant diversity maintained by small–scale farming households in both homegardens and crop fields and determined the relationships between this diversity and their households’ food security. We also considered how a suite of additional demographic, household, community, and farm characteristics relate to both the plant diversity maintained by a household and their food security. Similar to previous studies, the age of the agricultural decision-maker and the age and size of households’ homegardens positively correlated with the overall species richness of farming systems. Older homegardens were also identified to be more evenly distributed in their species abundance, and market–oriented households had significantly higher species richness but lower Shannon Indices. Most notably, household socioeconomic status and material wealth were important to both agrobiodiversity maintenance and household food security, while no significant relationships between species richness and food security measures were detected. These findings suggest that effort aiming to increase the food security of small–scale farming households in Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, should target those farming households with a paucity of socioeconomic assets, as these households lack both agroecological and economic resources to overcome shocks, such as those associated with climate change.

Key Words:

Agrobiodiversity climate change resilience food security small–scale farming Sri Lanka. 



We would also like to thank our collaborators at National Building and Research Organization, Sri Lanka and Kalpani Wijesinghe, our fieldwork assistant nonpareil.

Funding information

Support for this project was provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation (EAR-1204685).

Supplementary material

12231_2018_9418_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 30 kb)
12231_2018_9418_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas E. Williams
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Amanda R. Carrico
    • 2
  • Indika Edirisinghe
    • 3
  • P. A. Jayamini Champika
    • 3
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary and Global Studies DivisionWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training InstituteColomboSri Lanka

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