Agiculture Education Unit
Agriculture Education Unit Faculty of Agriculture University of Peradeniya Peradeniya 22400 Sri Lanka
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Improving Agriculture Education in Sri Lanka for sustainable Development


“Tropical Biodiversity”

A 3-week long “Study Abroad” Program

 (Please refer to the pamphlet for the summary version of the program)

“The Faculty of Agriculture of University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, a Centre of Excellence in Higher Education in Agriculture in South East Asia, is located in a quiet village nestling in the amphitheatre of hills dominated by the majestic “Hantana” mountain range. It is an inspiring site, typical of central Sri Lanka with its rushing boulder-strewn torrents, its highly molded hills and its varied foliage. The lordly “Mahaweli Ganga”, the River of Great Sands, the longest and most historic river on the island, winds her way sluggishly through it. Considered to be the most beautiful in the world, the Royal Botanic Garden is a rare gem amidst University land.”


Senate building of the University of Peradeniya – a view through the Hantana forest


With the global populations increasing rapidly, one of the most important environmental concerns facing human-kind is the conservation of the biological diversity, which provides the much needed genetic pool for further development of the agriculture sector ensuring long term food security. Sri Lanka, being an island-nation in the Indian Ocean,  is not only blessed with splendors of nature starting with idle beaches, endless paddy fields, coconut groves, plantation crops, spice gardens to tropical rain forests, but also has the highest species diversity per unit land area of all Asian countries in terms of flowering plants and all vertebrate groups, excluding birds. The variety of natural ecosystems and habitats in Sri Lanka reflects the geo-climatic diversity in the island. These include terrestrial ecosystems such as forests and grasslands and a diverse and extensive collection of freshwater and marine wetlands such as rivers, streams, mangroves and coral reefs. The ethic underlying the conservation of biological diversity is that it is for the global good and the needs and rights of future generations.



Agrobiodiversity in Sri Lanka


The notion of conservation through the establishment of protected areas has, as we have seen, a long pedigree. From royal forests and hunting reserves, through game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, to national parks, the practice has a history almost as long as civilization. To a large extent the refinement of these types of reserves is a response to problems that conservationists have encountered in their management and reflects attempts to accommodate the different degrees of human activity that should be permitted within their boundaries. The proliferation of ideal types has, however, kept far ahead of legislative changes. For this reason National Parks remain the most common type of protected area, especially in developing countries supporting biodiversity conservation.


Tropical Biodiversity - Why Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been identified as one of the 34 global biodiversity “hotpots” by the Conservation International, and one of the world’s 356 endemic bird areas by the BirdLife International. Sri Lanka’s lowland rainforests, montane rainforests and south-western rivers and streams are listed in the WWF Global 200 eco-regions as one of the most biologically distinct terrestrial, freshwater, and marine eco-regions of the planet, which are considered priority areas for conservation.

The 3-week program on Tropical Biodiversity consists mainly field visits to areas representing in-situ and ex-situ biodiversity  conservation in Sri Lanka. The program involves hands-on experience in biodiversity conservation and allows participants to engage with the local communities that are directly and indirectly dependent on biodiversity resources.

An interdisciplinary approach has been followed and hence the curriculum combines specific knowledge of various scientific fields in order to adequately address the issue of biodiversity conservation and its sustainable utilization in the tropics. This field-based program includes group activities carried out in sites within Sri Lanka with globally significant biodiversity, providing an opportunity for the participants to develop critical problem-solving skills in the case of loss of biodiversity in the tropics. Within a short time period, the short course provides participants with the knowledge of the science and practice involved in sustaining and enhancing the biodiversity in tropical ecosystems to preserving environmental integrity.

Caution:           This is not an offer for a summer vacation, but a field course with field-based learning. So, come prepared to work, to learn and to experience tropical agriculture.



Class schedule

The students arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport at “Day 0” of the program, met by the program staff, and transported to University of Peradeniya on the same day.

The students stay at the University Guest house “Gal Bangalawa” (the University Guest House) during the first 2 days for introductory classes and orientation.

The course starts at 8.00 am on the first Monday after the arrival of the participants  and ends at 5.00 pm on the Saturday of the fourth week. Students will have opportunities to explore Sri Lanka during free times. On some occasions, we will be traveling to and from sites during weekends.




Course credit:             Should be arranged by the participants with their host university

Grading:                      The course will be graded based on participation, attendance, written field observations, weekly exams, leading and participating in discussions, and a final paper and presentation. A breakdown of the points’ distribution will be provided on the first day of the class.


Week 1: Introduction to Tropical Biodiversity and visit to Sinharaja Rain Forest

Objectives: Introduction to the course, introduction to tropical biodiversity (native and agro-biodiversity), and understand the biodiversity of tropical rainforests .

Activities: Students will be given an opportunity to interact with the Faculty and students at University of Peradeniya and visit the SInharaja Rain Forest, a well known tropical rainforest at the global level.









Biodiversity in Sinharaja Rainforest


Week 2:          Visit to Yala National Park and Horton Plains

Objective: Introduction to the flora and fauna and their interactions in tropical environments

Activities: The activities for week 2 will be held at the Yala National Park and the the Horton Plains. Yala national park is rich in wildlife biodiversity. The park is famous for having one of the highest densities of Leopards in the world, and thus offers one of the best chances in Asia to see Leopards. The diversity of otherlarge animals include Elephant, Sloth Bear, Mugger Crocodile, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Wild Buffalo, Jackal, Grey Langur and Mongoose. For bird lovers, Yala national park presents the Malabar Pied Hornbill, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant and Black-necked Stork. 












Globally Threatened Asian Elephant in Yala National Park


The Horton Plains National Park is famous for the endemic Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, which is highly threatened. Other biodiversity highlights include the endemic primate Bear Monkey, Rhino-horned Lizard, Dwarf Lizard and Black-lipped Lizard. The visit to Hakgala Botanical Gardens, was once the pleasure garden of Ravana of the Ramayana epic and according to many, it was one of the places where the beautiful Sitha was hidden by the demon king, provides sights and scents of the glorious blooms, which can be experienced in their infinite variety. A special attraction here is the variety of montane orchids, many of them endemic to Sri Lanka.














Rhododendron spp in Horton Plains


Note: Students will stay at the Guest house belonging to the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Department of National Botanic Gardens.


Week 3:          Visit to vedda community – traditional practices in biodiversity conservation

Objectives:      Introduction to traditional technologies adopted by the vedda community in Sri Lanka for biodiversity conservation.

Activities: This week will be a visit to the Dambana, the aboriginal lands amidst native forests in Sri Lanka to study the traditional technologies adopted for conservation and sustainable utilization of the native biodiversity.

The aboriginal people, the Vedda, are traditionally hunters and gatherers supplementing their subsistence by shifting cultivation. The lack of access to forest produce, game and land for shifting cultivation and were fast losing their own language. only one small group insisted on remaining in the forests. The traditional technologies adopted by them for livelihood and biodiversity conservation would be an unparalleled experience.








The veddas – aboriginal people of Sri Lanka



Note: Students will stay at the Guest house belonging to the Department of Agriculture



Cost of Program

Program fees              US $ 1800 (includes course tuition, lodging and excursion fees, and meals, excluding international airfare, passport, insurance and visa fees).

Expenses for a longer stay in Sri Lanka will have to be borne by the students.



Physical demands

The climate and topography of Sri Lanka will be challenging for many overseas students. The Peradeniya climate is mild; the Talawakelle clime is cold while in other areas it is warm and humid (32°C and 85% humidity). You will be exposed to different climatic scenarios within a short period of time. Beds with mosquito netting will be provided especially during your stay at Mahailuppallama. On weekends, the free days/times, we will have programs to re-fuel ourselves. However, we are keeping this option open for you to decide if you want to explore the country. If you need special medication, please contact the coordinator as soon as possible, definitely prior to your arrival.


Project Conditions

The Climate
(Information given below is the climate for the year in different regions of the country)

Climate features of the country are basically determined by the geographical location of the country in the equatorial belt and its position in the inter-tropical convergence zone. The chief determinants of the climate in Sri Lanka are rainfall and temperature. The mean temperature is 27.5°C over low lands. The oceanic influence helps to reduce temperature in the lowlands by sea breezes. The temperature decreases at a steady rate of about 6.5°C for each 1000 meters rise and in the montane region the mean monthly temperatures varies from 13°C to 16°C with the night temperature occasionally dropping to around zero. Diurnal variation of temperature is well marked and the range increases with altitude as well as with distance from sea. There is only a small variation in mean monthly temperatures experienced throughout the year in most parts of the country.

The relative humidity varies generally from about 70 per cent during the day to about 90 to 95 per cent at night. In the dry areas these values are lower by about 5 per cent.

The rainfall is of three types - monsoonal, convectional and depressional. The two monsoonal periods, the South west (May - September) and the North east (December - February) is responsible for major part of the annual precipitation. Local topography plays a major role in determining the rainfall distribution over the island. The South west monsoon provides rain mostly to south western quarter and the central high lands. The North east monsoon along with inter-monsoonal depressional activity in October/November is stronger and produces rain through out the island. The other inter-monsoonal period in March/April produces less rainfall. Based on the mean annual rain fall and its distribution, the country is classified into to three major climatic zones: Dry zone (1,250 mm - 1,525 mm), Intermediate zone (1,525 mm - 2,280 mm) and wet zone (2,280 mm - 5,100 mm). The dry zone experiences prolonged dry period from May to September with drought conditions prevailing from June to August. The presence of strong dry winds accentuates the harsh conditions during this period. Additionally the two areas in the North west and South east of the island receiving a mean annual rainfall of 890 mm - 1,250 mm and having a more prolonged and intense drought are classed as the arid zone.



You should purchase an air ticket to take you to Colombo. There is one international airport in Sri Lanka. We will provide you transport from and to the airport, as well as during the program hours.

In your free days, the public transport is the cheapest to get to required destination. Three-wheelers (Tuk-Tuk in Thai Language) are the most frequently used mode of transport for short distances (do not forget to negotiate the charges before entering a three-wheeler). The latter mode of transport is, however, the most exciting.

Recommended Clothing/Gear

Use your best judgment having your best interest and comfort in mind. Travel light and bring a backpack. Be prepared for harsh weather conditions, wet and dry, and cold and warm. Have some clothing to wrap you up in cool nights. Bring a jacket to protect you from cold winds and mist in the up country. Do not forget to bring any medication that you require, and also a field note book. (Instructions will be provided)

Please make sure to see your doctor or visit a ravel clinic at least 6 weeks before your departure to Sri Lanka. Check to make sure that you have an up-to-date Tetanus Vaccine Booster, that you’ve adequately addressed anti-malarial if you choose to, and that you have any and all prescriptions that you’ll need in the summer.

Recommended Websites for Reading

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University of Peradeniya|Faculty of Agriculture