Livelihoods or ecopreneurship? Agro-economic experiments in Hambantota, Sri Lanka
Journal article, 2013
Purpose - In the context of contemporary debates on ecopreneurship and sustainable livelihoods, this article compares two programmes to promote a certain type of agro-economic practice among rural farmers. By following the successes and failures of these programmes, the text interrogates how such initiatives are evaluated by the surrounding community of aid agencies and governmental bodies.
Design/methodology/approach - Deploying the theoretical notion of "performativity", as used within economic anthropology, the article posits that the above-mentioned programmes can be construed as economic experiments. More specifically, the text compares two concurrent initiatives: One ecopreneurial experiment instigated by a social entrepreneur, and one livelihoods-focussed experiment instigated by an aid agency. The case study is based upon material from a three-year ethnography of entrepreneurship-promoting programmes in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
Findings - While the ecopreneurial venture fails, the livelihoods-based initiative proves successful in demonstrating its economic validity. The case study indicates that, in the context of modes of evaluation focusing on day-to-day incomes of farmers, it may be difficult for ecopreneurs to make room for ecological experimentation.
Originality/value - Having identified this "ecopreneur’s dilemma", the article prompts scholars and policy-makers to investigate it further, and potentially re-examine how the livelihoods agenda is implemented in practice.