Project Case Study
Raising the incomes and employment of marginalised communities in Myanmar
Implementation of a 5-year agricultural development project in one of Myanmar's conflict affected states
Sandwiched between the Bay of Bengal and the Rakhine Yoma mountain range, communities in Rakhine State confront a number of severe challenges, including malnutrition, poverty, conflict, weak infrastructure and vulnerability to extreme weather events.
The majority of Rakhine’s population is reliant on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. More than half of the rural population is landless and dependent on casual labour for employment and income.
The overriding agricultural challenge in Rakhine is low productivity. A significant proportion of the farmed land in Rakhine is close to sea level, and saline intrusion and flooding is common at certain times of year.
Rice yields are among the lowest in the country and agricultural production is based on low-technology farming systems. Most rice production customarily relies on a two to three month period of intense rainfall during the monsoon.
The minority of farmers who grow a crop in the dry winter season generally only farm a fraction of their available land. The binding constraint to increasing crop productivity and diversity in the winter season is a lack of access to fresh water. Farmers who can access fresh water in the dry season generally report higher per-acre incomes – some earning more per year from a small area of winter crops than much larger areas under rice paddy.
Over several months in 2014, the Government of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Adam Smith International worked with the Ministries of Agriculture & Irrigation and Livestock, Fisheries & Rural Development at the Union, State and Township levels, on a project that first identified and then designed solutions to these challenges. We were subsequently awarded a 5-year contract to implement the work through the Rakhine Winter Crop Project (RWCP) until mid-2020.
RWCP facilitates winter crop diversification to increase farmer incomes, food security and employment.
RWCP brings about this change by:
- Building the capacity of farmers and government extension services to support diversification into more productive and profitable winter crops
- Providing the infrastructure, training and applied research for farmers and government extension services to improve fresh water management
- Facilitating inclusive value chain development through improved market knowledge, market access and access to credit.
As a government-to-government programme, RWCP works hand in hand with the line departments of the Ministry of Irrigation & Agriculture in Rakhine to build sustainable capacity in the State- and Township-level administrations.
The geographically dispersed programme is implemented through two project teams operating in remote areas of both northern and southern Rakhine (Sittwe, Rathedaung, Thandwe and Gwa) supporting agricultural communities and government extension services in some of the most politically and operationally challenging parts of Myanmar. This ground-breaking programme is currently the only bilateral development project operating in Rakhine State.