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Exploring a village in the Dry Zone

Water management practices in the Dry Zone can differ from village to village. In order to understand why certain water management practices and projects are successful while others fail, it is important to understand the village’s social structure, the locally evolved water management system and practices surrounding irregular water availability, e.g. in times of drought. In the following, several of these aspects are introduced with reference to a case study village located north of Anuradhapura. The case study village is a purana village. Purana villages are old villages that were not only recently brought under irrigation but have a history that dates back to the Sinhalese kingdoms. Alleged customary laws of inheritance and sets of “traditions” within the villages structure the tenure and ownership. As families have been involved with one another for several centuries, purana villages are considered to have strong social cohesion. The term is additionally heavily loaded with national symbolism (Leach 1961; Daléus et al. 1989; Gunawardena 1981).

Data collection

Fieldwork on water management practices in and surrounding the case study village was conducted between July and September 2016. Regular visits to the village provided insights into everyday life, interaction and hierarchy in the case study village and helped to gain trust from the residents. 27 interviews were conducted in the case study village and four interviews in the neighbouring village. Further interviews were conducted with water management experts, an archaeologist and three government representatives in Anuradhapura.

Further fieldwork was carried out in xxxxx. Data was gathered in 40 semi-structured interviews with an interview guideline including a set of open questions and another set of closed questions. The interviews covered questions on demography and household data, agricultural data, irrigation and household water use, as well as knowledge and perceptions about water management, the FO and the social structure. Additionally, two in-depth interviews with Public Administration Officials were conducted.