Emma Cutler completes Fulbright tenure
I recently returned to the United States after spending one year in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright student research grant. While I was there, I studied sustainable land use and agriculture, learning about projects that increase the viability of small-scale organic production. I became involved with a newly developed low level, volunteer-driven organic certification program for farmers who may not be able to afford export-level certification. As a volunteer, I visited farms throughout Sri Lanka and learned about this method for increasing sustainability in the food system. I was also involved with a project focusing on small-scale tea producers in the buffer zone of the Sinharaja Rainforest, the largest remaining piece of rainforest in Sri Lanka and a global biodiversity hotspot. Organizations are educating these farmers about organic production and helping find international markets for their tea with the ultimate goal of creating a self-sustaining tea growers’ cooperative. Emma with another volunteer In addition to observing the process of making organic tea production economically feasible for these small-scale farmers, I helped lead a couple of programs for farmers and children in the community focusing on the importance of sustainable agriculture.
Through my exposure to these and other sustainable development projects, I learned about some of the environmental problems in Sri Lanka, including deforestation and agrochemical pollution, and the subsequent loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. I also observed widespread public concern about these issues and their effect on human health and saw some of the ways that they are being addressed. I came to better understand the importance of community involvement in creating a sustainable future and the inseparability of social, economic, and environmental issues. Although I have finished my research in Sri Lanka (at least for now), I hope that through work with MCRN, I will continue to learn about how we can create sustainable food systems and build resilient social-ecological systems in a changing climate.