Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


I would like to thank the Macalester Summer research grant program for supporting my research over the summer of 2021. I would also like to thank Professor Bill Moseley for his advice and support in completing this project. I am also grateful to Professor Laura Smith and Professor Arjun Guneratne who answered many questions and gave me feedback while serving on my honors committee. I would like to thank the smallholder tea farming associations and key informants for helping me identify households for my research interviews. In addition, I would like to thank the smallholder tea farmers in Sri Lanka who answered my interview questions. Without them, this project would not have been possible. Finally, I would like to thank my parents and relatives for the support and connections they provided me in helping conduct this research.


In Sri Lanka, smallholder tea producers grow 70 percent of the country’s tea and bring in significant export earnings. However, when the country moved towards a more liberalized economy in the 1970s, growing cash crops such as tea for exports increased. As a result, there was a cut-back in food crop agriculture as farmers made space to grow more commercial crops. This research treats tea smallholder households as a unit of study. It looks at how economic status (average income and wealth rankings), level of crop diversity, and method of tea farming (organic or conventional) have influenced food security and dietary diversity outcomes. I use data collected in the summer of 2021 from 47 organic and 67 conventional tea smallholders in six rural communities of Southern and Central Sri Lanka. My findings show that organic farming is associated with greater dietary diversity among tea smallholders than conventional farming, growing a greater variety of cash crops is associated with greater dietary diversity and increasing household incomes through selling crops result in greater levels of dietary diversity. I also examine how the transition to organic farming works best with more time and planning. The country’s recent ban on imports of chemical fertilizers used by conventional tea farmers has impacted their dietary diversity and food security outcomes, since this was done in a rather haphazard manner causing declines in tea and food crop yields. Furthermore, I study how the increased income levels and increased number of cash crops grown influence better levels of dietary diversity among tea smallholders.

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Geography Commons



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