hectares of irrigated areas
or so beneficiary families
reduction in electricity consumption
In Myanmar, farmers in the Dry Zone in the center of the country are particularly exposed to climate hazards. To address them and strengthen food security in a highly vulnerable region, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is supporting a project that combines rehabilitating irrigated areas and improving farming practices.

Along the road that leads to Myin Kun, in the heart of Myanmar, the landscape is arid. Although the rainy season has only just finished, the land is already dry. With less than 600 millimeters of rain a year, against 2,400 on average, in addition to a sandy soil, the Dry Zone is aptly named. It covers 10% of the country and is home to almost 18% of its population, which mainly makes its livelihood from farming.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), extreme weather events (droughts and heavy rains) are already largely exacerbated by climate change in this area. Access to irrigation is therefore a crucial factor for the food security of people… and not only in Myin Kun.

To address this challenge, the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a project, with AFD’s support, which combines rehabilitating irrigation structures and developing more water-efficient farming methods with higher yields. The objective: sustainably increase food security and the incomes of farmers.

One of the fields in the irrigated perimeter of Myin Kun, Myanmar
Myanmar, AFD, sustainable agriculture
Like U Ko Ko Maung, a farmer, 200 people work in the irrigated area of Myin Kun, an hour’s drive away from Magway. The rehabilitation of the irrigation network has considerably increased the yields of his activity: “Our crops used to be regularly flooded during the rainy season and lacked water during the dry season. There is now a much better distribution of water resources thanks to drainage and irrigation. It will mean we will be able to do three crops instead of two!”, he is pleased to say. A new crop will therefore be introduced next year: either groundnuts or sunflowers, depending on the location.

This is a real relief for U Ko ko Maung, who hopes that his income will increase: “I’ve got two children. We have suffered from hunger. One year, the crops were so bad that I didn’t have enough money to pay for the school supplies. Now that we’re going to harvest more, and with better quality grain, I’d like to save so that they can go to university.”
Myanmar, AFD, efficient sustainable agriculture
U Tin Win is the project’s agricultural expert. His role? Support the development of farmers’ practices to ensure they are both more efficient and more sustainable. “Farmers have benefited from training to learn how to grow paddy rice better: indeed, by leaving more space between the seedlings when they are transplanted and with a precise management of irrigation (alternating between immersion and drying phases for the plot), the plants are taller, there are more ears per plant and they have a greater density. They can reap more with less seed, less water, and therefore save money!”.

Farmers are also trained in how to reduce their use of chemical products: “We have introduced a variety of mushroom that fertilizes the soil naturally. We also suggest they use trichogramma, insects that kill pests, rather than chemical insecticides”, explains U Tin Win.

Finally, reducing losses in the channels and optimizing irrigation schemes reduces the electricity consumption of pumps by 33%, while the irrigated area has increased by 30%!
Myanmar, capacity building in agriculture
In addition to agriculture, a lot of training courses are given to farmers: “We’ve had training in management, finance, as well as in how to better identify market opportunities”, explains U Hla Myo Oo, who is also a farmer in the Myin Kun area and Secretary of the Water Users Association.

“We’ve completely changed our management and practices, we have a better understanding of how to manage our farms. We’ve also been on a study tour to Cambodia to see how other farmers cultivate their land”. A total of 35 training courses and five study tours have been organized to build their capacities.

Fields to demonstrate good practices have also been installed in the area covered by the project. The aim is to make it easy to present them to other farmers and convert as many of them as possible to these uses.
Management by and for users
Members of the Water Users Association discussing with the project’s agricultural expert © Aung Naing Oo / AFD

To delegate part of the management and maintenance of irrigated areas, the project has also supported the creation of a Water Users Association. Its aim is simple: train and mobilize users for the maintenance of the channel and pumps to ensure their sustainability after the project ends.

The members of the association, which include U Koko Mg and U Hla Myo Oo, are also trained in the administrative, legal and legislative aspects related to their functions. It is the first structure of its kind to be officially registered in Myanmar.

Water is a valuable resource that we must use as best we can. While the Water Users Association is still in the structuring phase, its members are showing their commitment to come up with solutions themselves and optimally manage this resource… This is a really good sign for the future”, Marie-Cécile Thirion, AFD’s Director in Myanmar, is pleased to say. “I hope that in a few years’ time, study tours will be organized in these two irrigated areas, and that the way they operate will serve as an example to extend this project to other regions. It’s certainly well on its way in any case!”