Sowing new ideas : an investigation of anthropology's contribution to rural development in S.E. Sri Lanka
This thesis is a study of rural development resulting from ethnographic research carried out in the villages of Mediriya, Therrapahuwa and Walamatiara in Moneragala, Sri Lanka. As rural villages are being drawn into increasingly complex relations governed by forces of globalisation, this study develops an understanding of the significance of these interactions within the context of development. In Sri Lanka, current (worldwide) concerns for 'sustainable’ development based on 'participation' in order to alleviate 'poverty' and 'empower' local people, must be examined against a historical backdrop in order to appreciate the significance of rural intervention today. I examine issues of knowledge and power emphasising how a variety of stakeholders negotiate, manipulate and form relationships in order to gain access to resources. This thesis tackles development issues on multiple levels. As part of a DFID (Department for International Development) funded natural resources project, focussing on the high density intercropping of banana with rubber, my role was to provide an in-depth study of livelihood strategies and factors influencing farmer decision-making within home gardens and smallholdings. I reflect on the advantages of Indigenous Knowledge Research, which provides a greater insight into how local people identify and tackle problems than previous 'top- down' efforts. However, the fine line between involving local people in development and 'extraction' are also highlighted. My experiences of working within a multidisciplinary team prompted me to reflect on the whole context surrounding the research process and consider the role of anthropology in development. It is argued here that while the involvement of anthropologists in development is not without its dilemmas, anthropology can usefully contribute using a holistic approach to examine the processes of development, placing natural resources research within a wider social and political context and highlighting the difficulties involved in trying to understand something about Others.