Genetic and Species Diversity of Sri Lanka

Traditional rice winnowing
Traditional rice winnowing

Genetic and species diversity has special significance for the maintenance and enhancement of productivity in agricultural crops in Sri Lanka, which is characterized by highly varied agro-climatic and diverse growing conditions. Such diversity provides security for the farmer against diseases, pests, drought and other stresses. The genetic diversity also allows farmers to exploit the full range of highly varied micro-environments in the country, differing in characteristics such as soil, water, temperature, altitude, slope and fertility.

The presence of heterogeneous agro-ecological conditions with seasonal and inter-annual variation, socio-cultural and ethnic differences, application of different traditional farming practices including dry and wet land farming, deliberate and inadvertent selection of varieties and various systems of beliefs allow to develop various indigenous and traditional cultivation practices and techniques for selection, conservation and utilization of planting materials.

Further, these traditional farmers represent centuries of accumulated experience and skills of peasants who often sustained yields under adverse farming conditions using locally available resources. The foundation for such farming comprises of the traditional landraces. Landraces are crop plant populations that have not been bred as varieties but have been adapted through years of natural and artificial selection to the conditions under which they are cultivated. Maintenance of species and genetic diversity in farmer's fields is essential to sustain agriculture, especially for resource poor farmers practicing agriculture under low-input conditions in marginal lands.

Indigenous knowledge has been brought down from generation to generation and forms part of the information base for a society. The indigenous knowledge can be defined as local knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. Each society has a variety of types of knowledge systems. Indigenous people have a wide knowledge of the ecosystem they live in and ways to ensure that natural resources are used sustainably. Therefore, indigenous knowledge which has been accumulated over centuries has potential value for sustainable development. It can help other people to learn how to live in the natural world in a sustainable fashion as well as to develop agronomic practices for cultivation and utilization of materials.

Genetic resources, Agro-biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV