Golden rice fields extend in the afternoon sunshine at the foot of the mountains. A woman farmer checks the grain on the ears. It’s a peaceful, yet also deceptive scene. Near the border with China there are countless problems in Kachin State: civil war-like conflicts with the expulsion of entire villages, and large-scale investors occupying vast swathes of countryside with their rubber plantations, evicting people from the land that they have farmed for generations. They also lose access to the community forest whose products represent an important supplementary food and income source.
Who owns the land where my rice grows?
Because of the lack of clarity about the conditions of land ownership, it is difficult for farmers and their families to establish a stable livelihood. Usually, they just about make ends meet. However, for four months a year there is a serious food shortage. This is most noticeable for the children: data from the UN’s World Food Programme show that more than 35 percent of children in Myanmar are too small for their age due to chronic malnutrition.
In the 25 remote villages, which are involved in our project area, there is no hint of the new spirit of optimism initiated in Myanmar’s centres because of the country’s liberalisation and the economic upturn. The men often take jobs in mines some distance away, and the women stay behind with the farm and family. To meet their daily expenses, many of them agree to loans at exorbitant interest rates and get into permanent debt.
Food security and a stable livelihood
In these circumstances, those aspiring to create a stable livelihood are dependent on practical support. Out on the school fields in the fresh air, the more innovative farmers as well as those trained by our partner organisations teach their colleagues. Together they devise local production methods so they can improve their nutritional situation despite bad seeds, depleted soil and falling yields, yet without resorting to chemicals. Tried and tested methods are the sustainable rice cultivation technique known as SRI (see explanation, right), vegetable gardens with produce for sale and personal consumption as well as keeping pigs and hens for manure and protein sources.
This is how 240 small farmers from 15 villages learn about alternative income potential so they can reduce their debts. Small-scale entrepreneurs learn how they can plan to manage their business and attend courses for keeping small livestock.
Overall in Kachin, 700 families, or approximately 3,500 people are assisted. This is a modest, but important start so that more and more families can say goodbye to hunger and desperation.
- Project code: MY 02/16/01
- Project costs: 168,140 Swiss francs
- Project duration: 2.5 years
- Number of beneficiaries: 3,500 women, men and children as well as 90 farmers who are trained as local knowledge brokers.