Skip to Main Navigation
Results Briefs April 20, 2021

Climate Smart Irrigated Agriculture Project Helped Sri Lanka’s Smallholder Farmers Weather the COVID-19 Pandemic


Southern Province, Sri Lanka. Photo: CSIAP

The Climate Smart Irrigated Agriculture Project (CSIAP), which began in 2019 to improve productivity and climate resilience of smallholder agriculture in Sri Lanka, has played a key role in the government’s COVID-19 relief and recovery initiatives. The COVID crisis hit the agriculture sector particularly hard, with far-reaching consequences for food security and farmer’s livelihoods. In 2020, the project invested $1.72 million in five programs that prioritized high-value food crops critical for food security and income generation, benefitting 19,923 farm families.


Since March 2020, COVID-19 has had a massive impact on Sri Lanka’s national economy in general and the agriculture sector in particular with far-reaching consequences for food supplies, incomes, livelihoods and welfare. Although the full costs are still being reckoned, it was clear that those engaged in food production and delivery faced immediate effects from the restrictions on movement, supply chain disruptions and subsequent earning losses. As the economy contracted by 1.7 percent and agriculture by 5.6 percent during 2020, Sri Lanka faced a severe reversal of the gains it had made in food security and poverty reduction. The country’s 2.78 million people, many of whom were chronically undernourished, faced a five-year setback in welfare gains, seeing the ($3.20/day) poverty rate shoot up from 9.1 percent in 2019 to 14.5 percent in 2020.


With the outbreak of COVID-19, the government implemented an emergency response and economic recovery plan to provide immediate relief to vulnerable groups, revive economic activity, reactivate food supply chains, and reduce import dependency. The CSIAP closely aligned its work with the government’s plan by implementing five major production programs, along with supportive infrastructure programs, targeting the most vulnerable groups and regions. The production programs promoted 15 nationally prioritized high-value non-cereal food crops critical for food security, income enhancement and self-reliance. The infrastructure programs promoted renovation of irrigation tanks, modernization of extension networks, and strengthening of road, storage, and processing facilities essential to underpin agricultural production and marketing systems. These initiatives were consistent with the program’s aims, including ensuring the economic and climate resilience of smallholder agriculture by promoting crop diversification, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies and practices. But they also had notable economy-wide multiplier effects in terms of boosting agricultural supply chains and reviving the rural economy.

In 2020, CSIAP invested $1.72 million in the implementation of five major production programs: Cluster Villages Development Program, COVID Yala-2020 Program, Inter-season Cultivation Program, Maha-2020 Cultivation Program, and Climate-Smart Nutrition-Sensitive Home Garden Program. These programs supported existing government initiatives by prioritizing food production with CSA technologies and practices, diversification and inter- and off-season cultivation, and household-level nutritional security. Smallholders were provided with free or subsidized seeds, selected inputs including water-saving technologies, and extension services. Programs for on tank rehabilitation, extension modernization and marketing infrastructure were also implemented with an investment of $1.43 million.

North Western Province, Sri Lanka. Photo: CSIAP


The five production programs implemented under the CSIAO project to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic covered an area of 7,645 hectares (ha) and benefited 19,923 farm families (45 percent women). The production programs, together with the infrastructure investments such as tank rehabilitation, extension modernization and marketing infrastructure helped to boost employment, revived food supply chains, and supported economic activities in project areas.

During 2020, the project helped to create 2,695 climate-smart nutrition-sensitive home gardens that provided food and cost-savings for households. More than one-third of project beneficiaries reported significant improvements in land use, water use, farm productivity, and income levels, and application of CSA technologies and practices. Also, in this period, the project supported the production of 2,468 metric tonnes (mt) of groundnut and 360 mt of chili, representing 9 percent and 0.7 percent respectively of their national production targets. The project’s import substitution contributions ranged from 54 percent for groundnut, 13 percent for cowpea, and 6 percent for green gram, and CSIAP outputs generated approximately $5.21 million in value addition in 2020 (calculated as the difference between farmgate and retail prices).

Bank Group Contribution 

CSIAP is supported by $110 million in financing from the International Development Association (IDA). To meet the pandemic emergency, $15 million from CSIAP was reallocated to the government’s National Emergency Response Program. The project also so through its project implementation activities in terms of production, infrastructural and technical support and training programs. These programs during 2020 amounted to $3.9 million.


CSIAP benefits from a strong and proactive partnership among World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Government of Sri Lanka, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture (the implementing agency); the Ministry of Irrigation, Water Resources and Disaster Management; the Department of Agrarian Development and Irrigation Department. Additional partners include provincial-level counterparts, farmer producer societies, financial lending institutions, corporate partner agencies, and local-level community organizations. The strength of these partnerships underpins the performance of all project activities. CSIAP also gains considerable synergies from other World Bank projects such as the Agricultural Sector Modernization Project, from Asian Development Bank projects such as Irrigation Intensification Project, and from technical manuals and reports from agencies such as FAO and International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Moving Forward 

CSIAP has established a strong planning and implementation foundation capable of delivering an integrated package of CSA technologies, crop practices, water services, value addition, market integration, and farm organization essential for enhancing the productivity, income and climate resiliency of smallholder agriculture in Sri Lanka. The project’s ability to deliver significant benefits, despite external shocks including the pandemic and two recent cyclones, is testament to its sustainability. Additional investments in new water storage and drainage strengthening as well as the most popular climate smart nutrition sensitive home gardens could enhance and sustain the project impacts on long-term climate resilience. With multiplier effects generated by economic activities underlying such magnitudes of value addition and program investments, CSIAP is expected to contribute significantly to rural economic revival during 2020 and 2021.


Ms. Champika Malani of Parangiyawadiya, North Central Province demonstrated successful soya production in the water-short Yala (summer) season using seeds, fertilizers and technical guidance received under CSIAP.

Mr. Tilakaratne Banda of Thorawa, North Western Province, a disabled soldier and groundnut farmer, received 40kg of seeds, sprinklers and extension support under CSIAP and had an 850kg yield from 0.40ha, realizing a net return of LKR 1,58,500 ($857).

Mr. Anvar, an unemployed construction worker from Pulmoddai, Eastern Province said the employment opportunities created under Pulmoddai Agrarian Service Centre Modernization program saved his family and the families of 2 masons and 10 other workers.