Research student profile: Thusitha Marawila

Project title

Land Use Dynamics in Coconut Plantations of Sri Lanka: Implications for future land use policy

Project overview

This study employs a spatially explicit economic analysis to explore the land use change in a traditional coconut growing district of Sri Lanka. It analyses the effects of protectionist policies imposed by government to conserve the coconut lands.

Land fragmentation and conversion of prime coconut land to other uses has been a subject of a heated policy debate in Sri Lanka. Coconut plays an important role in the economy of Sri Lanka in terms of food security, revenue and income generation. Hence, consecutive governments have been supporting and protecting coconut farming through land policies, land use policies and protectionist agricultural trade policies, which have been largely targeted at providing private benefits to coconut land owners. Despite the generous government support and also intervention, conversion of prime coconut lands to developed uses has persisted throughout the last three decades.

This study attempts to understand the real drivers of the coconut land use change and the impact of the government interventions in the attempt to offset the disincentive effects arising from the relatively high rentals from urban uses. For this purpose, I developed a theory and a dynamic spatial econometric model that explains the economic behaviour of a profit maximising land owner in the context of coconut land use in Sri Lanka. It was empirically tested using remote sensing and socio economic data. Findings of this study will provide useful insights to policy planners in allocating public resources in the coconut sector and formulating sector specific policies.


I am an international student from Sri Lanka and completed my B. Sc (Agriculture) and Masters of Agricultural Economics at University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. I have been working as a research officer attached to the Agricultural Policy unit at the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

I have been granted the Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (EIPRS) and International Postgraduate Award (IPA) to purse my PhD studies at the University of Sydney.
I presented my research proposal at the Environmental and Resource Economics Early–Career Researcher (E-CReW) workshop held on 3rd November 2009 at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW


  • Marawila T. D., T. Ancev and I. Odeh (2010), The Economics of Agricultural Land Use Dynamics in Coconut Plantations of Sri Lanka, Contributed paper presented at the 55th Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES) Conference, 8-11 February, 2010, Melbourne, Australia
  • Marawila T. D., T. Ancev and I. Odeh (2011) Economics of agricultural land conversion: The case of coconut plantations in Sri Lanka, (in preparation)