Essays on collective coping in Sri Lanka

Perera, Ashira Elanee (2017) Essays on collective coping in Sri Lanka. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The aim of the thesis is to contribute to our understanding of how individuals in developing countries cope when faced with environmental risks. These themes are explored while focusing on small-scale farming communities in Wellawaya, south-east Sri Lanka, that are heterogeneously exposed to a particular environmental risk, namely the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC).

First, we examine the strategies which households within farming communities use to cope with exposure to the HEC. We conduct an individual-level household survey of 468 randomly-sampled households across sixteen farming communities which are highly exposed to the HEC. Our unique, cross-sectional data provides a snapshot of the coping strategies which they employ. We find that households which experience greater HEC-related damage are more likely to: rely to a greater extent on non-farm income; cultivate less land in each of the two cropping seasons; and have children who engage in non-farm employment.

Next, we investigate the effect of interdependent risk exposure on individuals’ ex-post sharing behaviour. By interdependence, we refer to when an individual’s choice over their own risk exposure directly impacts the risk exposure of another individual. The results from our lab-type risk-and-sharing game suggest that individuals positively reciprocate when another individual’s decision causes them to face lower risk exposure, but do not negatively reciprocate when another individual’s decision causes them to face higher risk exposure. A risk-averse individual who has agency over another’s risk exposure is more likely to share ex-post payoffs, while a relatively risk-tolerant individual does not. Our results suggest that risk attitudes and the balance of power within communities need to be considered by policymakers involved in the design of community-driven development initiatives.

Finally, we adopt a mixed methods approach to investigating how heterogeneity in individual returns to a public good and beneficiaries’/contributors’ risk attitudes affect public good contributions. We examine this in the context of Sri Lanka’s HEC and conduct a one-shot, framed, lab-in-the-field, public goods experiment (PGG) which reveals subjects’ contribution preferences when returns from the public good are asymmetric. Subjects also answer a hypothetical contribution question (HCQ) stating their time contributions to the construction of the public good. We find that heterogeneity in individual returns does not have a negative effect on contribution behaviour. Risk-aversion in the PGG, in this context, motivates people to engage in collective risk mitigation. The mixed method approach provides an encouraging and balanced account of communities’ potential engagement in HEC-mitigating public goods provision.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Barr, Abigail
Owens, Trudy
Keywords: Farms, Small,Environmental aspects, Sri Lanka, Elephants, Effect of human beings on,Wildlife conservation,Sustainable agriculture
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Economics
Item ID: 42433
Depositing User: Perera, Ashira
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2017 22:39

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