This research was conducted in the South East Dry Zone of Sri Lanka (SEDZ) Sri Lanka wich covers virtually all that territory that lies east of the Walawe basin, south and south east of the Haputale escarpment and east of the Passara hills. The entire SEDZ is a low lying area and it comprises of five agro-ecological regions (AERs) with diverse features namely low country dry zone 1a (DL 1a), low country dry zone 1b (DL 1b), low country dry zone 2a (DL 2a), low country dry zone 2b (DL 2b) and low country dry zone 5 (DL 5). DL1b is the largest AER of the country and almost half of the DL1b is located in the SEDZ. The SEDZSL comprises of certain parts of three administrative districts; namely Hambantota, Moneragla and Ampara districts.
The farming communities residing in this location are highly vulnerable due to inherent dry weather conditions and frequent climate change variations. Subsidiary food crop production in the uplands during maha season under rain-fed conditions provides key livelihood for these vulnerable communities. Farming is carried out both in encroached forest lands and farmer owned lands. Farming operations carried out in encroached lands are locally termed as chena cultivation. This has a huge impact on the environment. The map 2 demarcates the areas under chena cultivation and subsidiary food crop production in the SEDZ.
Among the major subsidiary food crops grown in this predominantly agricultural area are; sugar cane, maize, cowpea, ground nut, green gram and onions. The area is characterized by more or less homogeneous crop specific regions which can be recognized as diverse farming systems. Therefore the research component was based on these prominent farming systems operating in the SEDZ.
The research team involved the collection of data for the respective farming systems based on the variables chosen as direct or proxy indicators used for the construction of social, economic and environmental sustainability indices for each farming system in focus.