Alongside rice, a variety of other crops are grown in the dry zone. These include chilli, corn, okra, long beans, bananas, mangos and cucumber, just to name a few. Whilst many of these crops are grown according to modern-day methods, the style of agriculture used here, and in other places across Sri Lanka, is known as chena cultivation.
Chena is a ‘slash and burn’ practise which has existed in Sri Lanka for over 5000 years. Also known as shifting cultivation, it is a method of farming where an area of land is cleared of its vegetation and cultivated for a period of time before the cultivators move on to find and clear another space. As soon as the soil quality declines, the current plot (otherwise known as a chena) is abandoned so that its fertility may be naturally restored.
Historically, chenas were farmed collectively and all of those involved would pool resources and take roles and turns in protecting their crops. Chenas rely heavily on rainwater, which means seeds are sown during the monsoon season.