Improving value chains of selected underutilized crops for the economic well-being of smallholder farmers in South-Eastern Sri Lanka

Bandula, Hambange Don Arosh Chamikara (2021) Improving value chains of selected underutilized crops for the economic well-being of smallholder farmers in South-Eastern Sri Lanka. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham Malaysia.

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Underutilized crops are widely recognized for their socio-economic, nutritional, and agrobiodiversity values. Studies on underutilized crop farming systems and value chains in Sri Lanka are limited. The research had been undertaken to investigate the underutilized crops in smallholder farming systems, economic contributions, and existing value chains. Primary data were collected from 30 Gramaniladari divisions (GN Divisions) located in twelve Divisional Secretariat (DS) from Uva and Eastern administrative provinces of Sri Lanka. A summary of the different chapters is presented below.

Chapter One: Introduction

At the onset of this chapter, I have attempted to correlate the global trends toward commercial agriculture and its negative influences on rural farming. In order to do so, I have further tried to see the context of Sri Lanka’s development transition where the agricultural sector plays a decreasing but considerable contribution to the rural sector. Since the rural agricultural sector is considerably dominated by smallholder farmers and underutilized crops, the role of underutilized crops for the economic well-being of them is an important area for in-depth study. I reviewed past researchers’ works related to underutilized crops in Sri Lanka, Asian countries as well as the rest of the world. Based on the review of the literature, I found the research gap of the study. Following the research gap, I formulated four research questions for this study.

Chapter Two: Review of literature

In this chapter, I have extensively reviewed the literature for the construction of the research framework. At the onset of the chapter, I briefly reviewed the evolution of agriculture and different underutilized crop farming systems. The role of the agricultural sector in rural development was reviewed and explored the performance of the agricultural sector in the Sri Lankan economy. I reviewed different concepts around underutilized crops, farming systems value chains, and smallholders. Second, I discussed the smallholder farming environment in the world. The discussion explored the characteristics of the smallholder farming sector and its potentials for farming underutilized crops. After that, I discussed different value chain concepts and the operation of value chains in the broader operating environment. This discussion further narrowed-down to explore the nature of agricultural value chains and some specific features of those chains. Third, the discussion focuses on the concept of value chain analysis and different common and specific tools that can be adopted in different value chain environments and value chain governance.

Chapter Three: The common and potential underutilized crops in smallholders’ farms of south-eastern Sri Lanka: Impact on farmers’ economy and food security

In this chapter, I conducted farmers’ household surveys and key informant interviews in Uva and Eastern provinces. At the very beginning, I used the key actor's perceptions of underutilized crops to define underutilized crops refer to the study region. Based on this definition, this chapter further extended to see the main farming systems, land use patterns, underutilized crop composition of farming systems, and the economic contribution of underutilized crops in household economics by identifying high potential underutilized crop for each region. The result indicated that the substantial availability of underutilized crops and contribute to the economic well-being of the farmers. However, the main perception of underutilized crops among involving actors are pretty much related to the current contextual health and nutritional issues in rural Sri Lanka.

Chapter Four: Operation of primary and supporting components of selected high potential underutilized crops

Identification of high potential underutilized crops brings the path to narrow-down this study by a focus on three main underutilized crops (Finger millet, Red cowpea, and Cashew). This chapter covers mainly production and marketing insights of the selected underutilized crops. To do so at the very beginning the chapter explores the nature of the current farming cycle of those selected crops. The major discussion of the chapter covers the distribution of selected crops in farming systems, the economics of production by exploring primary and supporting activities, and the existing market system. The results indicated that the value chains of underutilized crops are mainly reflected by producers, collectors, whole sellers, and retailers. The middle of the value nodes was complex and composed of several linkages. Farmers allocate a considerable extent of their lands and a significant amount of labour for the selected crop production. Those crops reflect reasonable economic potentials where their family labour plays a significant contribution.

Chapter Five: Economic returns on key value chain actors, constraints, and development potentials of high potential underutilized crops

By conducting key informant interviews and focus group discussions this chapter attempts to explore further identification of factors insight the existing inefficiencies of the value chains and to see the ways to overcome those inefficiencies. At the very beginning of this chapter explored value addition and value distribution characteristics among actors in selected crop value chains. This economic insight is further strengthened by identifying underlying causes, constraints, and visible consequences in the market systems of each selected crops. The findings showed different reasons behind the poor performances of the selected crop markets by enlightening the potential areas for development by adopting the most relevant interventions.

Chapter Six: General discussion and conclusion

In this chapter, I have conducted three main discussions such as a) key findings of the study by briefly describing major findings, b) key issues and existing challenges in sustainable farming as well as marking of underutilized crop products, c) main limitations of the study with conclusions and recommendations. The comparison of farming systems characteristics and economic contribution of two different study sites as well as the market systems of the selected underutilized crops show several common and specific features that need adjustments for the economic well-being of the farmers. This dissertation also has several academic contributions. Most importantly the findings bring local definition for underutilized crops while recognises high potential underutilized crops for each region. Market actors who are involved in business and their roles are identified to see the broader market environment. The findings open-up sustainable intensification potentials where new researchers may be interested.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Nath, Tapan Kumar
Keywords: underutilized crops, value chains, small holder farmer, economic wellbeing, farming systems
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
Faculties/Schools: University of Nottingham, Malaysia > Faculty of Science and Engineering — Science > School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences
Item ID: 64410
Depositing User: Hambange Don, Arosh
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2021 04:40
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2021 04:30

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