Rural farmers benefit from cash grant and agriculture inputs to address new emerging impacts of COVID-19

This story outlines one agricultural project of the UN food security agency FAO, and its partners in the The Global Network Against Food Crises.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that ending the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere is both a moral imperative and a matter of enlightened self-interest. ‘’Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. We face a colossal test which demands decisive, coordinated and innovative action from all, for all.’’

In Myanmar, the UN Country Team, representing more than 20 UN agencies, is undertaking both development and humanitarian work which is impacting on the everyday lives of people. This story outlines one agricultural project of the UN food security agency FAO, and its partners in the The Global Network Against Food Crises which is contributing to saving lives and livelihoods.

 

Phyu Thein was confronting a catastrophe.

The small scale farmer from Maungdaw Township in northern Rakhine State who has three young children and no husband, has been affected by the fighting between the Arakan Army and Tatmadaw, which has displaced about 77,000 families.

The UN food and agriculture agency FAO says the conflict has disrupted agricultural production and access to food.   

Although it was hard, Phyu Thein was getting by, paying some farm workers to help her plant and tend to her tiny farm which provided food and an income.

But in a good year Phyu Thein could grow various seasonal crops year round. She farms just one acre (slightly less than half a hectare, about 65mx65m) for rice cultivation and has a small compound for home vegetables.

Then her entire means of earning a living was affected by the lockdowns of COVID-19. 

Phyu Thein lost income and was unable to hire casual laborers to help her with her farming. COVID-19 disrupted supply chains and decreased access to necessary items, contributing to increased competition over limited resources and increasing prices.

Alone at home with no extra help, Thein could not handle all the farm work. Her three children are too young to help and don’t know enough about farming activities. 

“My eldest son is in Grade 10, and my middle son is in Grade 7. They go to a school about 6 kilometres away,” she says. She wants a better future for her children.

Her earnings from selling vegetables at the market decreased. Phyu Thein could not provide for her family.

But then she received support from a European Union-supported project to restore and protect the agricultural livelihoods of vulnerable farmers.

The project provided Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs). Phyu Thein also received vegetable and rice seed, fertilizer and a one-time cash grant of 150 0000 Myanmar Kyat (about USD $100). 

Hopefully the vegetables will be harvested in two to four months.  From the harvest Phyu Thein will have a variety of nutritious vegetables including Okra, Yard Long Bean, Water Spinach, Roselle, Bittergourd, and Snake Gourd. 

The vegetables will also provide an income while Phyu Thein waits for the rice harvest late in the year. She plans to use the cash grant to buy food for her family while waiting for her harvest, and on education for her children.

There will be enough to pay for farm labour, too. 

“From this planting season, I hope to harvest 75 baskets of rice. This can feed my family for about four months,” she said.

“I was happy to receive fertilizer and vegetable seeds, which are not available in our market. These seeds are good for my farm work, and I am very interested in this planting activity.” 

By the end of July, some 5 892 vulnerable farming families in northern and central Rakhine State received cash assistance of about 150 0000 Myanmar Kyat (about USD $100) —totalling USD $619,341. 

The project is being implemented within the broader framework of a partnership programme supporting The Global Network Against Food Crises.

As part of the project Phyu Thein was visited by FAO field extension officers to help her with her family needs and to improve production on the farm

These support her immediate needs and provide long term benefits, for when the conflict is over and COVID-19 has been defeated.

Which will help Phyu Thein make the world a better place for her children.

If you liked this story you might also like this: Protecting the baby; feeding the family

UN entities involved in this initiative
FAO
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations