Community Participation on Rural Development; Importance of High land cultivation, Chena for Prevalence of Traditional Crop Varieties and Rural Sustainability

Navarathna Mudiyanselage Tharindu Gunathilaka, Iresha Chamalee Herath


Since ancient time, cultivation is emerged as a peculiar culture in Sri Lanka."Chena" that is the unique high land cultivation method in Sri Lanka, represents a vital role on behalf of in-situ conservation of traditional crop varieties. Beside, Chena is one of the iconic symbols of rural sustainability. For the study participatory observations, semi structured interviews, group discussions were carried out in this area. Here we observed, many rare traditional varieties in rice, vegetables, grains, yams, fruits, pulses, leaf vegetables and medicinal herbs are conserved in Chena cultivation through both species level and genetic level. And also they preserve the propagation unit, seed among their small communities as a genetic resource. Then they use these protected seed as the foundation seed for the next season.

Chena cultivation has been assimilated to the Sinhalese rural life pattern via the culture and socio economics. Rituals, customs, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices related to Chena persist among them. Most important socio economic role is it mainly concentrates on the rural food security without influence of market oriented intentions. This role is fortified by climate changing endurance capabilities of crops in high land cultivation. Hence, ancient people depended completely on Chena crops when their staple food, rice production is in climate challenges. And the high level of nutrients, caloric energy and deliciousness ensure a healthy life of people. Further Chena's traditional varieties are feasible in providing a substantial harvest excluding chemical treatments.

This cultivation system demonstrates that the essentiality of community participation for conserve the ethnobotanical values, resources and knowledge, and it servers for their own sustainability. But this high land cultivation is in a critical stage in present Sri Lanka. Some governing decisions and agricultural policy making have enervated this traditional cultivation event. And modern corporatocracy jeopardizes the value of traditional crops varieties by promoting gene modification. Further proposed seed act in Sri Lanka (2014) has been badly oriented to violate community seed right. These all make severe effects on Chena cultivation. Here we urge the attention of relevant authorities for reconsider this livelihood practice and make better implementations in near future. These implementations should come up with an integrated model for development, protect the livelihoods and agro diversity. It helps to ensure the cultivators' rights, social justice and rural sustainability.

Keywords— Community participation, Chena, Traditional crops, Sustainability


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