Ahead of World Water Day, Mohamed Aheeyar, a researcher with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), reports on a new case study documenting a remarkable agricultural transformation made possible in Sri Lanka by the rapid spread of motor pumps for irrigation.

The whole region around Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, is dotted with village reservoirs managed by small-scale farmers. Referred to locally as “tanks,” the reservoirs form part of complex irrigation systems in use since time immemorial. Farm families like that of Priyantha Kumara, a disabled army veteran, rely on them to irrigate rice in the main monsoon season. But Priyantha and his neighbors aspire to more than the basic food security that this system provides. They want a bigger share of the prosperity that people elsewhere in the country are enjoying.


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