People in Need rebuilds schools and livelihoods after monsoon floods in MyanmarPublished: Feb 5, 2019 Reading time: 5 minutes
In July and August 2018, Southern Myanmar experienced the worst flooding in 30 years. Now, over six months later, communities are slowly recovering. People in Need has provided affected communities with seeds and fertilizers to help them rebuild their livelihoods and organised “Cash for Work” activities to rehabilitate four damaged schools.
“It was the worst flood in thirty years,” says U Shwe Ba from Hpa-an Township in Kayin State, one of the worst-affected regions. “It lasted about two months, connectivity and transportation were cut so we couldn’t get help,” he adds. The heavy rains flooded the paddy fields, which had a huge impact on people’s livelihoods.
Over in Mon State, where U Min Tun San and his neighbours live in Latpan village, most of their income was lost due to the floods. “We lost about 90% of the crops, so farmers’ income was affected,” he explains.
Seasonal rain poses a threat to farmers
Monsoons in Myanmar have typically brought sufficient rain for agricultural production, which is a major industry and provides jobs to 65% of the labour force. However, in recent years the effects of climate change are increasingly felt, as heavy rains now pose a threat to farmers in Myanmar.
In July 2018, the extreme downpour caused major flooding in three regions and two states in the country, affecting more than 130,000 people and damaging nearly 630,000 acres of crops. Poor irrigation systems further compounded the problem as they failed to adequately drain the flood waters, which resulted in some regions experiencing flooding for up to four months.
In August 2018, People in Need (PIN), with the support of its Club of Friends, provided food aid to more than 2,600 families in the immediate aftermath of the floods. PIN’s team in Myanmar was able to reach a number of villages that remained flooded at that time.
After the floods, PIN, with the support of United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO), distributed seeds and fertilizers to farmers and their families in order to help restore their livelihoods. Since last October, PIN and volunteers, identified around 14,400 households in need of seeds across Bago region, Mon and Kayin states.
Green grams, black grams, vegetables and trainings
In November and December last year, the most vulnerable families in eight townships received agricultural kits from FAO. Each kit contained one bag of seeds and 30 kilograms of fertilizer. Depending on their preferences, families either received a bag of seeds for green/black grams or vegetables. Vegetable seed kits included white radishes, chilli, tomatoes, carrots, mustard, water spinach and eggplant.
PIN also collaborated with Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) to ensure that 70% of the recipients received expert-led training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
Preparing for the next season
U Chein, a resident of Latpan village, was very satisfied with the quality of the produce he was able to grow from the green gram seeds he received. “Look at this! The quality is very good and we can sell them at a higher price,” he said, peeling off the skin to show the beans. “We plan to keep these seeds as a standard for next year’s crops,” he adds, his friends nodding in agreement.
All around us, the fields are green with beans awaiting harvest. Driving through villages, whose residents have been supported by the project, it is clear that farmers are on their way to recovering from the floods. “A farmer never has holidays. After harvesting this batch of beans, we will grow the paddy again,” said U Tun Lay from Laptan village as he joined his friends to go back home for lunch.
Rehabilitating four schools through Cash-for-Work
During the months of flooding, many public services and schools were out of operation for days at a time as a result of damages to infrastructure. “We closed our school for 15 days because the whole school compound and classrooms were filled with water,” recalls Headmistress Daw Khin Thet Naing, who runs a middle school attended by nearly 300 students from Kawt Than Khar village tract.
“An annex building with wooden floorboards that housed kindergartens was completely ruined, some school furniture and restrooms were also damaged,” she explains.
Kawt Than Khar middle school is one of four schools in Kayin State that PIN has helped to repair with funding from Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF) managed by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). To repair the schools, PIN established a “Cash for Work” project, which created income opportunities for local residents and developed workers’ skillsets. “We only hired our own villagers to repair the furniture and toilets here in order to improve their skills and get the work done quickly,” says U Saw Aung Win, the administrator of Kawt Than Khar village tract.
Organised into small groups, one skilled worker led two to three unskilled workers to carry out restorations or build new furniture. “It is really great to earn money by working in my own village,” says U Saw Win Shwe from Kawt Than Khar village. Through this approach, PIN rehabilitated schools for 1,100 students and created income opportunities for nearly 10 workers across the four villages.