Social capital and resilience to drought among smallholding farmers in Sri Lanka

  • Amanda R. CarricoEmail author
  • Heather Barnes Truelove
  • Nicholas E. Williams


Pressure of freshwater resources has intensified in recent decades, stressing agricultural communities worldwide. Research is needed to advance our understanding of the factors that support resilience. Past research suggests that social capital positively predicts health and well-being; yet, we know surprisingly little about the relationship between social capital and resilience to environmental stress. Some scholars have cautioned that tight-knit social relationships can also constrain behavior and undermine flexibility, which could undermine adaptive responses to environmental stress. In this analysis, we use survey data from 225 smallholding rice farmers in Sri Lanka to examine the relationship between individual-level measures of cognitive and structural social capital measured before a drought-affected season, and livelihood outcomes (rice yields and income loss) measured after the season. We also examined if membership in less powerful groups (landless, female, and poor farmers) moderated the relationship between social capital and livelihood outcomes. Higher levels of perceived social cohesion (a measure of cognitive social capital) were associated with poorer yields for both female and landless farmers; yet, the yields of male and landowning farmers were unrelated to perceived social cohesion. Likewise, landless farmers with higher levels of community participation (a form of structural social capital) experienced a marginally higher rate of lost income due to the drought. These data suggest that the relationship between social capital and resilience operates differently for different members of the community. Importantly, some community members may face a difficult tradeoff between agricultural productivity and maintaining social relationships.


Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.University of North FloridaJacksonvilleUSA
  3. 3.Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA

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