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, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is supporting a project that aims to improve farming practices and rehabilitate irrigated areas.

The landscape is vast and arid surrounding the roads leading to Myin Kun, in the heart of Myanmar. Although the rainy season has only just ended, the land is already dry. With less than 600 millimeters of rain a year, as compared to a 2,400 ml national average, 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 – despite the sandy soil.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), extreme weather events (droughts and heavy rains) have been exacerbated by climate change. 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 will revamp irrigation infrastructure and develop more water-efficient farming methods to obtain higher yields. The objective: sustainably increase food security as well as farmers’ incomes.

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 his yields: “Our crops used to be regularly flooded during the rainy season and lacked water during the dry season,” he says.

“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!” New crops will be introduced next year, including either groundnuts or sunflowers, depending on the location.

This is a relief for U Ko Ko Maung, who hopes to see a rise in income. “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 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: Provide support for farmers, to ensure their methods are more efficient and sustainable. “Farmers have had training to learn how to grow paddy rice better, 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)," he says.

"Now, 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 can therefore save money!”

Farmers are also being trained in how to reduce their use of chemical inputs: “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.

Optimizing irrigation schemes has reduced electricity consumption via pumps by 33%, while the irrigated area has increased by 30%.
Myanmar, capacity building in agriculture
Farmers are taking courses – and not only in agriculture. “We’ve had training in management, finance, as well as in how to better identify market opportunities”, says U Hla Myo Oo, who is Secretary of the Water Users Association and a farmer in the Myin Kun area.

“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 in Cambodia to see how other farmers cultivate their land”. A total of 35 courses and five study tours have been organized to build capacity.

Also part of the project: fields to demonstrate good practices. The aim is to present them to others and encourage more farmers to use innovative and sustainable measures.
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 supported the creation of a Water Users Association. Its aim is simple: train users for the maintenance of the pumps and other equipment to ensure their sustainability, long 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 of the project. 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 commitment, and coming up with solutions themselves,” says Marie-Cécile Thirion, AFD’s Director in Myanmar.

“This is a really good sign for the future. I hope that in a few years’ time, study tours will be organized in these irrigated areas, and that the way they operate will serve as an example for other regions.”