Pahalagama: a Case Study of Agricultural Change in a Frontier Environment
The settlement that we call ‘Pahalagama’ lies on the right bank of the river Kirindi in Hambantota District of Sri Lanka, towards the tail-end of the area irrigated from Wirawila tank — the Kirindi Oya right bank scheme (KORB). It is not a ‘village community’ so much as an area of dispersed settlement, including 85 households, given a limited degree of unity because it surrounds a single yaya. Since it lies towards the tail-end of KORB, some of the existing paddy land did not come into the possession of the large and often absentee landowners who control most of the best lands under the major irrigation schemes of the District, but was cleared by encroachers who have now mostly acquired titles to their plots. Tail-end location also means that water supplies are uncertain; even in Maha, when there is almost invariably adequate water in the tank to irrigate the whole tract, the cultivators’ supplies may be cut off at critical times because of illegal diversions upstream. Cultivation in the Yala season is always subject to substantial risk. There is no exploitation of groundwater, so Pahalagama cultivators do not have the independent water supply enjoyed by many in North Arcot District.
KeywordsPaddy Cultivation Paddy Land Agricultural Change Intensive Practice Field Preparation
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