The teardrop-shaped tropical island, located just 30-50 km off the Southern tip of India, known as the "pearl of the Indian Ocean", has suffered a long civil war that disrupted smallholder agriculture and other economic activities for two decades in the North East part of the island. The peace and reconstruction process will hopefully improve the food security and poverty situation in rural areas.
The Sri Lankan economy has changed in recent years, from an agriculture-based one to one dominated by the services sector, including tourism, which represents over half the national GDP (56%). Agriculture, including livestock and fisheries, account for less than 15% of the GDP and is dominated by a few traditional plantation crops, in particular high quality tea (20% of global tea trade). The agriculture sector employs over one-third of the workforce and links with the manufacturing and services sectors. Weak agricultural policies and delivery of services in remote rural areas, as well as uncertainty of state interventions in agricultural input/output markets restrict agricultural development.
There are two cultivation seasons, the Yala (Southwest monsoon) and Maha (Northeast monsoon). Water management has always been challenging especially in the drier Northeast, as mountains in the central region block the monsoon rains from the Southwest, and irrigation facilities are scarce. Small-scale farming is therefore vulnerable to erratic rains, with a million families being severely affected by frequent droughts.
Since any temperature rise will jeopardize tea production, Sri Lanka may have to rethink its agriculture given climate change predictions. Cultivation of traditional crops like finger millet, black gram, and oilseeds have fallen in recent times, while that of other cereals and vegetables are increasing. Some farmers are shifting to perennial crops like cashewnut in rainfed villages in response to climate change.