Agriculture is the most critical sector in Myanmar, as is the case in many developing countries around the world. As the World Bank states on it’s website, “healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems are critical to achieve the world’s development goals, with agriculture developed as one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050.”
In areas affected by constant conflict, such as is the current reality in Myanmar, supporting healthy, sustainable and inclusive food systems happens more at a household level – at a home garden level. It is one of the better approaches, or rather one of the few possible approaches within the volatile situation plagued by increasing prices, limited access to inputs, markets, customers, finance and support. This is especially true for people displaced from their homes due to violence and now residing in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps. – where they no longer have access to their own land, farms or plantations, but instead may only have access to small piece of land around their shelter. In Northern Shan State of Myanmar, as of May 2022, 33, 245 people are internally displaced due to violence.
One family among them is that of Daw Ji Nan, who have been residing in Karlai Zup Aung camp for the last seven years, after continuous violence between military factions made it too unsafe to stay in their village. Together with her husband, three sons and three daughters, Daw Ji Nan left behind her corn, paddy and tea fields – which they could no longer safely cultivate - as well as chickens and pigs – who they could no longer sell on the market as it was too dangerous to travel along the road.
"We do not want to go back to the old village. The reason is that the conflict were never stop at there. There is no safety in that old place. The tea trees also got damage by lacking of nursery persons. We are more safe here in the camp than the old village, especially for our children’s education and health."
In the IDP camp, job opportunities in different sectors are few and far in-between – whereby agriculture remains the main employer. Since 2020, DRC has been supporting families set up their own food systems in the camps, with funding support from USAID. DRC provided 166 families, including Daw Ji’s, with seeds, farming tools and training on how to plant the seeds related to climate-smart agriculture, healthy harvesting method, and how to make and use natural fertilizers and pesticides. This knowledge and skills have been used within their home gardens, for improved and abundant yields.
"Now we could save our daily wages for the kitchen because of cultivating and growing lots of vegetables in our yard. We feel safe and ease because of the supplies. We feel more safety because there is no conflict near the camp. We provide our food from our own vegetable cultivation for our family and we can buy necessary things from Kut Kai market."
Although the home garden has provided a level of food security to Daw Ji’s family, they still face many challenges, including poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected Myanmar’s economy, as crucial trading routes across the border with China were closed in 2020 – and remain closed to date. The military seizure of power in February 2021 further destabilized the political landscape, contributing towards further economic deterioration and rising costs. In 2022, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased to 14 million people, with 13.2 people in need of food security assistance (Humanitarian Needs Overview 2022).
In Northern Shan State DRC will continue to operate and provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by displacement – as well as other threats such as climate change, political instability and economic deterioration. To do so DRC needs continued support from donors such as USAID and others, to work with local organizations to support families like Daw Ji’s, who know the threats ahead of them all to well.
"We also thought the changing climate can also affect our main income from cultivation. The obvious changes are raining in-properly and getting hotter. In this present situation, we need more cash supplement to provide foods, and to solve the food necessity and lack of jobs. We are getting worried for the next years, because of present political situation and lack of jobs. In the coming years, there will be more people displaced because of political situations, and if organizations are only focusing on the new persons, we feel that we will be more in difficulty for sure."
This study/report/audio/visual/other information/media product (specify) is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Danish Refugee Council and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.