Myanmar | Improving farming productivity in Rakhine State

Rakhine State, along the western coast of Myanmar, is home to approximately 3.3 million people, many of whom depend on agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture to make a living. However, since 2012, repeated outbreaks of armed conflicts and intercommunal violence, mostly in the central areas of Rakhine State, have led to civilian displacement. 

As of 8 June, approximately 70 000 newly internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being hosted in camps or camp-like settings across 165 sites in Rakhine State (Source: Rakhine State Government). Worsening the situation is the region’s vulnerability to floods, cyclones and earthquakes. 

This combination of factors is undermining food security and threatening the agricultural productivity of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State. Insecurity has led to lower production on farms. Movement restrictions due to the conflict and more recently COVID-19 government restrictions are limiting people’s ability to work or to engage in production activities to earn a living. These factors combined translate into low productivity, which means that people have less access to sufficient, diversified and nutritious foods, as well as less income and reduced access to food. 

Other challenges that farmers face include inferior farming methods and practices, lack of labor, poor access to agricultural inputs, limited access to water during the dry season, and water scarcity due to lack of infrastructure. 

By the end of 2018, with support from the European Union, FAO began to implement the Improving Food and Nutrition Security project in the northern parts of Rakhine State – supporting communities in the Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung townships to rebuild and protect agricultural livelihoods.

Training and equipping farmers

Under this project, on 5-6 June 2020, FAO, together with the Agriculture Mechanization Department and Phyu Sin Saydanar Action Group, conducted training for over 30 farmers on basic skills related to managing, maintaining and repairing mechanized power tillers. The training was provided to equip farmers with the skills needed for maintaining and repairing the mechanized tools in use in the villages. A total of 15 machines were provided for use in 12 villages to help farmers prepare their land for the monsoon planting season. 

In Maungdaw, on 7-8 June 2020, FAO, together with the Agriculture Mechanization Department and Action for Green Earth, conducted training for over 30 farmers on basic skills related to managing, maintaining, and repairing mechanized power tillers. A total of 19 machines were provided for use in 15 villages to help farmers prepare their land for the monsoon-planting season. 

Village mechanization committees

Village mechanization committees, another component of this project, aim to strengthen community assets. These committees were set up to manage the farmers’ use of the power tillers. Its members, village residents, oversee the use and renting of the equipment in their respective villages. The committees are responsible for repairing and maintaining the equipment. They are also responsible for helping farmers to make use of the power tillers to increase their individual farming production and income-generation capacity.  

Amid COVID-19, providing rice seed in Rakhine State

Targeting 6 000 families, FAO started the provision of rice seed in Inn Gyin Myaing and Tha Yet Kin Ma Nu Villages in Buthidaung township. 

To meet new requirements emerging from the effects of COVID-19, FAO has reorganized its programming under to ensure continued delivery of assistance where there are already high levels of need. 

With support from the European Union, FAO has integrated and completed a number of awareness-raising activities dedicated to COVID-19. FAO and its partners have provided face masks, soap, or alcohol-based sanitizers to farmers at the beginning of all field activities. Handwashing demonstrations have been conducted to help people understand the benefits of handwashing through practical exercises. 

All project activities integrate critical public health information about the importance of physical distancing and individual actions to protect oneself and others from getting sick. 

Source : Fao