WORLD WATER DAY/ Farmers in Myanmar no longer dependent on monsoon rains
March 22 is World Water Day, which has a special significance this year, declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Water Cooperation. AVSI has many stories to tell of projects throughout the world where we have helped communities to understand water as an invaluable resource, a vehicle for education and an opportunity for growth. One example is in the Dry Zone of Myanmar, where farmers are discovering new ways to overcome the unreliability of the monsoon rains.
Daw Khin Nyo lives in a village called Sae To, located in the District of Yamethin in Myanmar. He is raising four children on his own after his wife died years ago, and their one source of income is a small plot of land. His livelihood and his children’s school attendance used to depend on the fickle outcome of each year’s rice harvest, which can vary greatly based on the monsoon rains.
Last year, like many of his neighboring small-scale farmers, Daw Khin Nyo had a poor crop and consequently his income barely covered the family’s needs. The addition of irrigation systems could give him the guarantee that next year he can improve his crop productivity to recover from last year’s losses and give a more certain future for his family.
To respond to this need, AVSI has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation to implement the project “Myanmar: education and rural development,” which aims to improve the quality of life for the residents of the astutely-named Dry Zone. The project activities include the construction of new infrastructure for agricultural irrigation, the renovation of select school buildings, and the provision of agricultural equipment.
So far, 20 wells have been constructed, with community participation along every step of the way, from the planning and construction to the management of the wells for the future. The wells will make water available to farmers even outside of monsoon season, so that they can cultivate larger fields and alternate crops to include vegetables or other items in addition to rice.
Thanks to this project, Daw Khin Nyo has seen a big change in his life. Now, he grows rice for his family in the monsoon season, and in the dry season he raises crops which he can sell for a profit, such as sesame, cotton or vegetables. For his family, this means increased food security, the ability to pay school fees and greater availability of water to use around the house.