Farming for the future: How climate-smart agriculture can protect Sri Lanka’s smallholders

More than 1,300 farmers received over 1.6 million LKR as part of insurance payouts for crop damage caused by excess rain or dry spells.

(Colombo, 15 September 2021) More than 1,300 farmers received over 1.6 million LKR as part of insurance payouts for crop damage caused by excess rain or dry spells. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), together with local partners, introduced the initiative which is part of a project that helps Sri Lanka’s smallholder farmers develop resilience to climate change and extreme weather events.

A farmer in the North Central province of Sri Lanka who is a beneficiary of IWMI’s hi-tech bundled solutions initiative.
Photo credit: Samurdhi Ranasinghe/IWMI

“It is expected that the poorest and most marginalized communities will be the hardest hit from the projected impacts of climate change, increasing poverty and inequality,” said Dr. Giriraj Amarnath, IWMI’s Research Group Leader – Water Risks and Disasters (WRD), at the payout ceremony. “Through this project, our goal is to empower rural farmers in this country with hi-tech agricultural technologies.”

The climate report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that climate change is widespread and intensifying extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. Indeed, according to recent studies carried out by IWMI, since 1966 more than 27 million people have been affected by and droughts in Sri Lanka with economic losses estimated at over USD 2.62 billion.

Following success in India and a recent pilot in the Anuradhapura district in Sri Lanka, this payout ceremony marked the expansion of this hi-tech bundled solutions initiative to encompass nine other rural villages in the country belonging to the five districts of Ampara, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Monaragala, and Vavuniya.

As part of the bundled solutions package, farmers receive climate risk insurance, agro-climatic advice, and climate resilient seeds. The insurance payouts are calculated by the respective insurance company according to an “parametric index” developed by IWMI, which uses satellite data to determine agricultural production losses. Advice on agronomy and climate is provided in all local languages via an SMS service which supports farmers to determine weather patterns more accurately and identify best agricultural practices. In addition, farmers receive improved and adapted seeds which can withstand floods and droughts. Overall, this climate-smart solution has the potential to boost year-round agricultural production and increase farmers’ income.

Government dignitaries, local partners, and farmer leaders attended the payout ceremony, which was held online due to the current Covid-19 travel constraints.

“In our country, more than 75% of our farmers live in rural and vulnerable areas. They face many difficulties with access to water amid droughts and floods,” said Mr. Saman Bandulasena, Chief Secretary, Northern Province and chief guest at the payout ceremony. “But with this program farmers have gained a lot of profit. This was evident in the last ‘Maha’ season (cultivation season) where farmers from Galenbindunuwewa in the Anuradhapura district benefited from weather index insurance and climate information through IWMI’s pilot program.”

Irrigation in the dry zone of Sri Lanka
Photo credit: Samurdhi Ranasinghe/IWMI

This project is focused on providing fair and equitable access to all smallholders. Landless, marginalized farmers from the nine villages have been given a leading role in working closely with agrarian agents, and currently 40% of the beneficiaries are women farmers.

IWMI has provided training for all associated insurance staff and agents of this program and implementation is well-organized, despite the current Covid-19 constraints. The insurance payouts are being rolled out by Sanasa General Insurance Company. The seed distribution to farmers will be carried out by CIC Holdings in time for the upcoming cultivation season, supported by the representatives of the Department of Agrarian Development in each of the nine villages.

“We are committed to supporting the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka and protecting our farming community. Thanks to this IWMI initiative, Sanasa General Insurance was able to use satellite information for the first time in our agricultural insurance program to support our farmers,” said Mr. Tishan Subasinghe, Chairman, Sanasa General Insurance Company Ltd.

In due course, the project will introduce a buyback model in collaboration with CIC Holdings to buy seeds and grains directly from farmers. Amid the current constraints posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, this process will assist farmers to sell their produce in a timely manner and avoid post-harvest loss and two-way transport charges.


This work is jointly implemented by Sanasa General Insurance Company Limited and the Department of Agrarian Development, Sri Lanka. The project is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).


For more information, please contact:
Samurdhi Ranasinghe, Senior Communications Officer, IWMI


The International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is an international, research-for-development organization that works with governments, civil society and the private sector to solve water problems in developing countries and scale up solutions. Through partnership, IWMI combines research on the sustainable use of water and land resources, knowledge services and products with capacity strengthening, dialogue and policy analysis to support implementation of water management solutions for agriculture, ecosystems, climate change and inclusive economic growth. Headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, IWMI is a CGIAR Research Center and leads the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

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