Friday, April 15, 2011

Burmese farmers teeter between tradition and modernization

04/15/2011 14:28

by Yaung Ni Oo

Myanmar is anchored to the agricultural tradition, but the sector lacks resources and investment. The government imposes types of crops in certain areas, blocking development. NGOs forced to provide qualified personnel, not to aggravate the crisis. The population does not expect "democracy", but higher wages from new government.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar is still home to a strong agricultural tradition, but short on tools and technologies to boost the sector. Even today the farmers are not familiar with modern equipment, how to enhance the exploitation of the land nor do they know of fertilizers that contribute to the maturation of their crops. The farmers, in fact, are slaves to traders and their slogans, propaganda and omissions that alter the true picture of the sector.

A farmer, on condition of anonymity, said that his family will only be able to feed themselves if "the proceeds collected are sufficient to pay the debt" contracted this year for planting. "The work and fatigue does not matter – e continues - the only problem is to be able to pay back the money to honour debts, without being left empty-handed. Otherwise I will have to sell my piece of land "and lose all the initial investment. In the rare cases in which farmers are assisted by technicians and agronomists, the results are poor because they are not guaranteed daily support in the work, advice or money for long-term projects. Even today, in Myanmar the life of a tiller of the soil is highly dependent on good weather, the climate is the discriminating factor that regulates the quality of a crop. Added to this are the problems caused by government bureaucracy, which requires famers to grow certain types of products in certain areas of the country, and the farmer has to obey, under penalty of being fined by authorities.

In this general situation of backwardness, the work done by non-governmental organizations are of vital importance: If the NGO ensures the availability of qualified personnel who know the area and provides the technical knowledge, then it can help to improve the quantity and quality of crops. Otherwise, however, if the technicians are without experience or moral caliber, the situation worsens further.

However, there are also positive aspects: these include the greater closeness and cooperation between local officials and farmers. The same cannot be said of high-level ministers, the heads of the military junta, but lower ranks are more sensitive to the problems of the people. "The people - says a source - no longer feel as alone as before, as left to itself. This first change may bear fruit in the future. "

The people of Burma called for a "renewal" in the transition from military leadership to civilian rule, although the majority are former officers and leaders of the Burmese armed forces. Of course you can not talk about "democracy", but the hope is that the handover could lead to greater prosperity, higher wages, water and electricity for all households, at least in cities. At the current price, not even a primary school teacher can afford the "luxury" of having a steady supply of electricity in their home. Meanwhile, the prices of petrol and basic foodstuffs continue to increase. The average Burmese salary however, remains the same.
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