Human Enrollment in Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja is surrounded by 22 villages with a population of approximately 5000 people. Only two villages, Warukandeniya and Kolonthotuwa are located within the reserve. The long history of human habitation in and around today's reserve, in fact compounds the problem of managing and conserving the forest. Most of the ancient harmless are found along the southern boundary of the reserve on the bank of Gin Ganga with a few located on the north- western side. Numerous ancient footpaths exist on the periphery of the reserve while there are three footpaths that run across the interior of the forest.
The family structure is that of an extended family with parents, children and grand parents living together. The houses have small floor area, averaging 25 sq. meters and are constructed if wattle and daub. The roof is tatched with leaves of a forest treelet called Beru or with Bamboo leaves. Lately however, coconut leaves for tatching and clay tiles have begun to gain popularity as roofing materials.
The staple food of the villagers is rice, Yams such as sweet potato and Manioc (Cassawa), Breadfruit and Jak fruit, grown in home gardens are often used as substitutes for rice. Other plants commonly found in home gardens are vines of betel (Piper betel) black pepper and passion fruit. Fruit trees such as papaya and banana are also grown. For most of their other needs the villagers depend on plants often found in the forest. The sap needed for the manufacture of Jaggery is obtained tapping the in Florence of the Kitul palm ( Caryota urens ).
Another source of income is the manufacture of baskets and mats from rattan on 'wewal'. The villagers also exploit other plant products such as wild cardamon, resinuous exudates used as fumigating agents from Nawada ( Shorea stipularis ) and other shorea species.