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Recovery takes root in Myanmar

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In July 2018, Myanmar experienced severe monsoon floods and landslides, which devastated several states including Kayin, Mon, Tanintharyi and Bago. At least 20 people died, 268,438 were displaced, and infrastructure damage was estimated at US$3.6 million.

Farmers were especially hard hit.

“Our paddy fields were completely destroyed. Since the roads were damaged, we could not work in the fields or go to the market to sell our produce,” says Daw Yi Htwe, a mother of seven who ekes out a living growing rice. “The children couldn’t go to school and had to stay at home.”

Daw Yi Htwe’s children range from nine to 30 years in age, the eldest having left the town for work in Thailand. She wants them to be educated and have a better future.

Paddy farming forms the backbone of Myanmar’s agriculture. Mon state has approximately three million acres of arable land, most of it rice paddies. When monsoon flooding hit 90 percent of the crop damage was in the paddies, and small-scale farmers were hardest hit.

Ah Hta Ya village, with its unpaved roads and wooden houses with sloping roofs, sits next to the Attran river that elegantly snakes through the landscape. Picturesque as this might seem, and despite the benefits for agriculture and rearing livestock, the river’s proximity can wreak havoc during the monsoon.

People in Daw Yi Htwe’s neighbourhood share similar stories of how the disruption of the roads severed their only trade link with the market place.

With aid from the government the villagers replanted their paddy fields and invested in vegetables.

The end of the monsoon season, however, led to another problem for farmers — the new crops would need water that was no longer available because the dry season has started.

To enable the farming community of Mon to overcome the immediate challenge of irrigating their replanted crops and avoid a double loss, UNDP provided fuel vouchers to assist farmers to pump water to their paddy fields.

The programme also paid villages to repair flood damage and dredge rivers and irrigation canals. This provided families with an alternate means of employment to recover their losses and a longer-term solution to improve water management and irrigation.

“The floods destroyed our crops but the provision of diesel vouchers helped a lot in irrigating my seven acres of land. I received four gallons per acre and, with the help of my neighbours, I was able to pump water to my fields,” says Daw Khin Yee, who lost her entire crop to monsoon flooding in 2018.

Daw Yi Htwe, says the local community is better prepared to deal with any future floods, with the dredging helping control the flow of water into the villages and nearby fields.

A great deal remains to be done if we are to enable Myanmar’s people to prepare for, and effectively respond to, disasters such as floods and landslides, which have become yearly phenomena. In August 2019, Mon State experienced more severe flooding and rain-triggered landslides that took the lives of over 100 people and caused extensive damage to farms, houses and community infrastructure.

UNDP will continue to work with the Government of Myanmar to strengthen disaster risk reduction and recovery efforts. A core part of our work is supporting the incorporation of disaster risk management and climate change considerations into development planning at all levels so that Myanmar’s development pathway can be truly sustainable and resilient.

About the project

The post-flood recovery programme in Mon State are part of UNDP’s early recovery support to communities in Kyaikmaraw Township in Mon State, under the initiative ‘Building Capacities for Resilient Recovery’ with support of the government of Luxembourg, as part of the Governance for Resilience and Sustainability Project. The project aims at building the resilience of the country by strengthening capacities to plan and manage inclusive, resilient recovery. Kyaikmaraw is one of the townships severely damaged by the monsoon floods of 2018 and 2019. The intervention complements the early recovery work undertaken by the Government of Myanmar to help communities, and in particular farmers, to recover.