The three-year $1.3 million initiative has led to the creation of 200 farm field schools in Shan and Kachin states, helping promote a sustainable approach to enhancing agricultural productivity.
The project was funded by the UNOPS-managed Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) and implemented by the Metta Development Foundation.
Sustainable agricultural development
Small farms in the highlands of Shan and Kachin face low agricultural yields due to excessive weed growth. Poor farmers cannot afford costly weed removal and sometimes leave their land unused for several years, greatly reducing yield and potential income.
The LIFT farmer education programme is providing farmers with knowledge and technology to increase rice yields while protecting the environment.
Photo: LIFT |
The Metta Development Foundation has found that providing farmers with relevant knowledge and technology quickly increases rice yields from small and mid-sized farms. The farm field schools initiative focuses on locally-produced weed control technology, high-yield seeds and low-technology tools such as drum seeders, enabling farmers to increase yields while protecting the environment.
Through the farm field schools, farmers have learned how to reduce pesticide use, improve soil fertility and use suitable agricultural tools, through hands-on exercises and participatory activities. Local companies and mechanics were brought in to produce farm tools and provide ongoing maintenance services.
"Life was very hard. The rice we used to harvest was only enough for eight months. Now thanks to the new agricultural tools, my family of five has enough rice for the whole year," explains Nang Kyar, a local farmer from Lai Kun village in Shan State.
A platform for community participation
In order to receive support from the project, villagers had to form groups that included both men and women, supporting gender equality. The groups were tasked with identifying local agricultural needs and challenges, in collaboration with other existing community groups.
As well as improving the knowledge and skills of farmers, the project also developed capacity by enabling collective decision-making and better management of community groups.
From 2010 to 2013, participating farmers have planted over 10,000 acres of rice, using techniques learned through the project.
Farmers have reduced weeding time and labour costs by half, and 60 percent of households now produce enough rice for their own consumption, up from 37 percent in 2010. In 2013, a total of 4,765 farmers (including 3,500 from Shan State) increased their rice yields from an average 22 baskets of rice per acre to 33 baskets per acre.
UNOPS in Myanmar
UNOPS has been present in Myanmar since 1996, supporting a range of health and food security initiatives throughout the country. This has included administering funds and providing monitoring and oversight for LIFT, which is helping Myanmar make faster progress towards eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, one of the Millennium Development Goals.
LIFT reaches some of the poorest and most vulnerable rural families in Myanmar. To date, the programme has assisted 2.5 million people – nearly 5 percent of Myanmar’s estimated population of 52 million.
Funding for LIFT is provided by Australia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
UNOPS in focus