Mitigating drought through social mobilization in Sri Lanka

munamalagaswewa-in-puttalam The initiative "Communities Mitigating Drought through Social Mobilization" addressed the needs of village communities adjoining the Knuckles Mountain Forest in Sri Lanka through community-based participatory risk assessment and helped improve and diversify their livelihoods reducing the risk of drought and landslides.

Title: "Communities Mitigating Drought through Social Mobilization"

Country: Sri Lanka

Organization: This initiative is part of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction program undertaken in 2007 by the University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka, with support from Darwing Initiatives-UP Aberdeen Link.

Themes:Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Resource Management


Overview of activities: This initiative carried out social mobilization through comprehensive participatory needs assessment with a strong gender perspective. It implemented a range of measures to support villagers livelihood while pursuing conservation goals.

Methodology: Through community-based participatory risk assessment, the men and women of the villages are able to agree on shared responsibilities to reduce risk. A key finding was that water scarcity and seasonal droughts were the villagers’ biggest problem, and a strong emphasis on drought risk reduction, biodiversity, water management for agriculture, and land management followed. The participatory process in their social mobilization included:

  • sharing experiences and reaching consensus
  • mapping out their own terrain and resources
  • working out their capabilities to respond and implement solutions with attention to gender capacities and roles   

Major outcomes/impacts:  The communities improved and diversified their livelihoods through measures that both sustain their survival, and decrease the risk of drought and landslides. In two years over 2,000 plants had been planted by 75 households in gardens that served the dual purpose of improving livelihoods and conservation and three nurseries were maintained by the farmers. Organic farming was adopted to reduce the disturbances to soil formation and water conservation, cinnamon was introduced as a cash-crop to underutilized shrub-land areas, while biological measures were selected to enhance water infiltration and retainability.

Milestones: The communities involved improved and diversified their livelihood using their home gardens. Experience in the project yields the following lessons:  

  • Physical planning is not sufficient to address the disasters associated with climate change; social mobilization is essential where all sectors of the communities are to be engaged and become active, equal and responsible partners.
  • A dedicated social mobilization process can be necessary to integrate a gender perspective that considers men’s and women’s different needs, priorities and experiences.
  • Communities when organized and mobilized become agents of change, capable of facilitating and making decisions on technical needs as well as in implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Communities are able to replicate and pass on good practices to the next generation.      
  • Capacity building can be undertaken better through participatory process of interactive learning, sharing and reciprocity.        

Contact: Anoja Wickramasinghe, University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka, Professor of Geography -