Friday, 5 July 2013

IN THE FIELD – Myanmar in a new era


(in-country visits by ACIAR’s research managers)

The children we met were not shy from the camera.
Gyoke Pin Village in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar.
Photo by Jenny Hanks
In June, ACIAR’s ­ Principal Regional Coordinator for Mekong countries and China, Dr Gamini Keerthsinghe, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a research project in a country ACIAR has been working with for over a decade. The smallholder farmers and rural poor are set to benefit from opportunities for the Australian Government to work at a greater level of cooperation with the Government of Myanmar, which is undergoing a period of ambitious reform that is unprecedented in its recent history...

While I’ve been to many signing ceremonies signifying the commencement of projects across the world, none have held the impact I felt on this occasion. Signing the paper signified a new wave of operating in a country where relationships have moved to a higher level.

A woman from Minkan village, Central Dry Zone, with her cattle.
Photo by Jenny Hanks
Our first project in Myanmar (then, Burma) commenced a decade ago. Our aid program aims to reduce poverty and food insecurity and help the country transition to a stable, more democratic and more prosperous member of the region and the international community. This recent signing really is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to work on a whole new level with our peers in Myanmar. 
Dr Aung Aung explains the research projects of students studying at the University of Veterinary Science
to Dr Angus Campbell. Both Dr Aung and Dr Campbell are working on the ACIAR livestock project.
Photo by Jenny Hanks
A woman from Mayauk Let Village
explained how she manages her goats.
Photo by Jenny Hanks
ACIAR's strategy in Myanmar is primarily humanitarian, targeting through research, development and extension the immediate needs of the generally vulnerable Myanmar people. These strategies are closely aligned with Australian Government policy on aid for Myanmar. Most of this work has been done with the main aim of improving food security and farm income for rural smallholders and landless. 

The Memorandum of Understanding we have just signed has been for the animal health component of a $12Million multidisciplinary program. This program was developed in close partnership with AusAID and covers five components: crops (legumes and rice), fisheries and livestock, and socioeconomic / extension. Capacity building will be an integral component of the program covering all the sectors. We will be working in close collaboration with international research institutes, UN agencies, other donor nations, NGOs and national counterparts on this program. 

The ceremony was chaired by H.E. U Khin Maung Aye, Deputy Union Minister of the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries. The Deputy Minister in his opening remarks appreciated the support provided by ACIAR to his ministry and highlighted the importance of the livestock and fisheries sector to the national economy. Considering the rapid development taking place in these sectors, he stressed the importance of having foreign investments to support the development process.  In this context, the Deputy Minister explained that the role of research in development of new technologies to boost production is essential.

H.E. U Khin Maung Aye, Deputy Union Minister of the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (left)
with Dr Gamini Keerthisinghe of ACIAR (right) signing the Memorandum of Understanding.
Photo courtesy of the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.
This work we’re doing will help improve productivity and farm income at the community level, and also lead to improvements in the research capacity of both people and institutions, as many of Myanmar’s agricultural scientists have been isolated from international cooperation over recent years.

I’m hoping to return to Myanmar shortly to progress the work that has been instigated with the signing of this agreement and help the people of this country for at least another decade. 

Dr Gamini Keerthisinghe

Further information:

Photographs for this story were taken by Jenny Hanks. Jenny works as Research Program Officer in the Livestock Production Systems program in ACIAR. She had the opportunity to travel to Myanmar in November 2012 for the inception meeting for the $12 Million program, and participated in the scoping study for the livestock component.

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