June 27, 2019
Since 2011, various reforms for democratization and the revitalization of the market have begun in Myanmar. JICA has supported not only infrastructural development such as roads, waterways, and electricity, but also agricultural and rural development.
Peanut seed production field at the Department of Agricultural Research Nyaung Oo Research Station. Introduction of a sprinkler system has increased yield by about 90% and has enabled stable seed supply.
JICA has collaborated with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Tsukuba University over the past five and half years since 2013 on the “Project for Development of Water Saving Agriculture Technology in the Central Dry Zone (WSAT)”. In the first stage of the project, technologies appropriate to the region were developed. In the second stage, the technologies were introduced to the farmers through agricultural extension in the target area. In the third stage, activities contributing to establishment of food value chain (FVC) were conducted. This project bore numerous fruits, including stabilizing and improving crop yield and agricultural income, as well as establishing sales talks at the area’s first business matching event.
In the future, JICA aims to provide new food and farming support by establishing food value chains that meet the needs of developing countries, including Myanmar.
Food Value Chain (FVC): This conceptual system is a chain linking the production of agricultural produce to processing, distribution, sales and consumption in the market, increasing value-added at each stage leading to greater and more equitable benefits.
Interview with farmers in one of the project sites (Myingyan township). Drought due to global warming in the central dry zone of Myanmar is growing more serious, making it necessary to introduce drought-resistant crop varieties and technical improvements to traditional farming methods.
The Mandalay and Magway Regions are located in central Myanmar, north of the capital Naypyitaw and several hundred kilometers away from Yangon. They experience less annual rainfall than other regions, and are known collectively as the “Central Dry Zone”. Cultivation of crops that are comparatively resistant to drought has thrived in this area, such as peanuts, pigeon peas, and sesame. However, significant shifts in rainfall patterns have resulted in extremely unstable crop yields and agricultural profits, causing economic problems for many farmers in the area.
During the WSAT project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) of Myanmar and JICA experts took an integral approach regarding such problems, including sending an expert to train extension officers on seed quality management and peanut seed germination testing, as well as selecting varieties that show resistance to drought and are profitable.
Shunji Segawa of the JICA Rural Development Department says, “Nyaung Oo extension officers of MOALI completely reworked the training system, making guidelines to improve how information is provided to farmers. These efforts made it possible to provide advice tailored to the needs of the farmers. Also, many of the goals set in the project were achieved, including an average yield increase of 12% for targeted crops.”
A recommendation by JICA mission resulted in an event where farmers and owners of restaurants and hotels were talk face-to-face to learn about each other’s needs (At the Nyaung Oo Agricultural Research Office)
Through these activities, a new mission came into view.
An Agricultural Business Matching Forum was held in Bagan, the old capital of Myanmar also known as one of the three world’s foremost Buddhist historical sites, possessing dreamlike scenery dotted with countless stupas and temples. The negotiations which took place were proposed by JICA mission team, and focused on produce such as tomatoes and lettuce, with over 30 farmers and five owners of hotels and restaurants meeting under one roof, effectively creating connections regarding each other’s needs. This proved to be the true start to what can be called the area’s first food value chain (FVC) with local roots.
Following a lecture by the hotel and restaurant association chairperson on what kind of produce (items, quality, quantities, timing, etc.) is required by Bagan area hotels and restaurants, several groups of producers engaged in specific negotiations with individual owners of hotels and restaurants. The day after the event, one restaurant owner visited a producer and purchased two truckloads of cabbage, showing that it has resulted in the start of actual business.
Initially, the staff members from MOALI were skeptical of the event. After witnessing the success of the event and later business developments, however, they became determined to hold several business matching forums a year of their own initiative. The event also helped producers understand exactly what kind of quality and quantity of produce and when it is needed by hotels and restaurants. It also let the producers understand the necessity of forming groups among themselves and identifying exactly what technologies they need, as well as reinvigorating dialog with the local government.
The stakeholders involved in such activities were not fully aware of the meaning of promoting the FVC at first, but once they saw concrete results, they gradually began to understand its importance. FVC specialist and JICA senior advisor Makoto Inaba looked back on local efforts, saying “Although it may be just a small step, I feel confident about the results.”
WSAT project is not the only examples of JICA’s cooperation in Myanmar. Japanese research institutes and private enterprises, as well as grass roots NPOs are all engaged in agriculture-related projects that are being conducted in parallel. For this reason, industry, government and academia are working closely together to make the most of their strengths, with efforts to build an information sharing and collaborative framework in each field accelerating since December 2017. In April 2019, JICA launched the JICA Platform for Food and Agriculture (JiPFA) as a framework for further enhancing collaboration in a comprehensive range of fields including FVC on a global scale, including Myanmar, Indonesia and other Asian nations, Africa, Central and South America as a way to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Many guests were welcomed at the JICA Platform for Food and Agriculture launch event.
At the platform launch forum held on April 25, 2019, participating companies mentioned their expectations for the project, saying, “When engaging in food and agricultural projects around the world, there are many examples of business environment and legal obstacles that are unique to each country and region. We hope that this platform will help share specific solutions and offer practical staff training.”
Regular JiPFA email newsletters and events are planned for sharing information and experiences, while establishment of subcommittees for specific regions, countries, fields and crops are intended to accelerate the creation of specific collaborative projects and joint activities among interested parties.
Director General of JICA Rural Development Department, Kenichi Shishido, expressed his enthusiasm saying, “There are already over 130 participating groups and businesses involved in the platform. In order for JICA to contribute to achieving SDGs Goal 2 “Zero Hunger” in developing countries, we will utilize the strengths of each individual participant while building a stronger framework for collaboration.”