Climate change adaptation in coastal shrimp aquaculture: a case from northwestern Sri Lanka.

Published online
07 Aug 2019
Content type
Bulletin article; Conference paper

Galappaththi, E. & Berkes, F. & Ford, J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Sri Lanka


Unexpected temperature variations and rainfall patterns have direct, adverse impacts on shrimp farmers in northwestern Sri Lanka. Specifically, changing climatic conditions impact patterns of shrimp disease spread along an interconnected lagoon and make it difficult for shrimp farmers to predict and control the lagoon - the primary water source for coastal shrimp aquaculture. This paper examines how small-scale shrimp farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change by collectively managing shrimp disease. We studied three shrimp farming communities in northwestern Sri Lanka and analysed adaptation using a social-ecological resilience approach with a four-part framework: (1) living with uncertainty - shrimp farmers deal with the uncertain nature of the shrimp business by controlling (rather than trying to eliminate) disease; (2) nurturing diversity - farmers tend to diversify their income sources to include other activities and they also increase the risk of disease by dispersing pond waste water in space and time; (3) employing different kinds of knowledge - farmers combine their experience with large-scale (failed) companies, their own experience, government technical expertise, and new knowledge from adaptive management (the "zonal crop calendar system"); and (4) creating opportunities for self-organization - farmers have built on their experiences with producer cooperatives, known as samithi, to self-organize into a multi-level community-based management structure. Collaboration and collective action are central features of this adaptation mechanism. This small-scale shrimp aquaculture system is persistent, i.e. sustainable and resilient because it is continually adapting.

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