Thursday, May 8, 2014

Capturing farmers’ practices in Myanmar’s rice granaries

Farmers transport 45-day-old rice seedlings by boat for
planting in Bogale, Ayeyarwaddy Delta.
Photo by Arelene Malabayabas
More than 60% of Myanmar’s total rice production and half of its rice harvest area are located in the Ayeyarwaddy region and the Central Dry Zone. Some areas are highly favorable with freshwater all year, but generally, the lack of inputs and poor knowledge of best practices for rice production lead to substantially lower yields than comparable delta areas  elsewhere in Asia. Other areas are flood-prone and affected by salinity or drought.

Based on household surveys, more than 50% of farmers in Ayeyarwaddy and West Bago in 2006, and East Bago in 2012, used insecticides, whereas very few farmers used fungicides, rodenticides, and herbicides.

IRRI is now working with national partners and nongovernment organizations to raise the livelihoods of rice farmers and reduce risks in rice environments in these regions. Through the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) projects funded by the United Nations Office for Project Services, best pre- and post-harvest management practices, and different rice varieties will be provided as options.

Baseline surveys were conducted to find out the current rice management practices, and income and costs incurred in rice production of farmers at project sites. These surveys will serve as a guide in monitoring and evaluating the impact of the projects.

Surveys were conducted in farming households in freshwater, brackish water, and saline areas in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun in the lower Ayeyarwaddy Delta, and in saline- and drought-prone areas in irrigated and rainfed areas in Thazi and Ye-U in the Central Dry Zone. A total of 240 respondents were interviewed.

Arelene Malabayabas, agricultural economist of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium, led the survey with assistance from staff of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Research, and IRRI-Myanmar office. Ms. Malabayabas trained them in collecting, cleaning, and analyzing data.

IRRI Myanmar researcher So Pyay Thar interviews a farmer
in Meiktila Township, Mandalay, in the Central Dry Zone.
Photo by Arelene Malabayabas
Initial results in the lower Ayeyarwaddy Delta
Most farmers in Bogale and Mawlamyinegyun grow rice for family consumption. The mean cultivated areas for rice in both townships were 1.9 and 4.2 hectares in the monsoon season and  2.7  and 3.1 hectares in the summer season, respectively. Farmers from the saltwater-prone areas cannot grow rice during the summer.

In both townships, rice yield is higher in the summer. The average yield in Bogale is 2 tons per hectare in the monsoon season and 3.7 t/ha in the summer. In Mawlamyinegyun, the average yield is 2.6 t/ha in the monsoon season and 3.4 t/ha in the summer.

The use of material inputs is very low for both townships due to farmers’ lack of capital. During the monsoon, 70% of Bogale farmers directly seed their rice crop, while 87% of the farmers in Mawlamyinegyun transplant rice. In the summer, all of the farmers in Bogale and 94% of the farmers in Mawlamyinegyun practice direct seeding of rice.

A bullock cart passes by a golden stupa, a place of worship
in Myanmar.
Photo by Arelene Malabayabas
Initial results in the Central Dry Zone
The average area cultivated for rice in Thazi in the Mandalay Region during the monsoon season is 1.2 hectares for saline areas and 1.6 hectares for nonsaline areas. Farmers in Thazi are not able to grow rice in the summer due to drought and salinity problems. In Ye-U, Sagaing Division, the average rice farm area during the monsoon is about 1.2 hectares for rainfed fields and 1.9 hectares for irrigated areas.

All the farmers in Ye-U and 92% of the farmers in Thazi transplant their rice crop. Aside from rice, Thazi farmers grow chickpea, green gram, groundnut, and sesame, while farmers in Ye-U grow only chickpea and groundnut.

During the monsoon, the average yield in rainfed freshwater areas in Thazi is 1.8 t/ha, whereas the average yield in Ye-U is 4 t/ha in irrigated areas and 3.4 t/ha in rainfed areas. In the summer, rice yield in Ye-U is 4.4 t/ha.

“We will return toward the end of 2014 to conduct follow-up surveys to monitor changes in practices and the income of farmers,” says Ms. Malabayabas.

By Arelene Julia Malabayabas and Trina Leah Mendoza

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