SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 8
Due to the devastating Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, an estimated 63% of paddy land was submerged. By the end of May 2008, most of the affected areas had drained, with only a few pockets of inundation remaining. However, it was estimated that some 130,000 hectares (ha) of paddy fields still needed to be rehabilitated before farmers could return to their fields and cultivate a crop. It was estimated that between 75% and 85% of seed stocks from the cyclone-affected area were destroyed by flooding or subsequent wetting from rain because traditional bamboo seed storage structures were severely damaged. The overriding factor preventing farmers from returning to rice production was a serious shortage of draft animals and power tillers to cultivate the paddy fields. Where farmers had access to power tillers, they had no cash to pay for fuel and lubricants. As a general rule, farmers sell their surplus grain in May and June to pay for, inter alia, fuel and lubricants. With most of this seed/grain destroyed by the cyclone, the farmers lacked essential working capital.
The main objective of the interventions was to restore the food security of the most vulnerable farming rural households who were unable to return to their homesteads and cultivate their fields, and thereby reduce their dependency on food aid. This objective was achieved through an emergency supply of agricultural inputs to farmer households to resume rice, pulse, and vegetable production. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) implemented the following interventions:
A) Main crops interventions (monsoon paddy seeds and pulses for summer season)
Monsoon paddy seed kits, including fertilizer, were distributed to 13,570 households, and pulse packages were distributed to 26,862 households. More than 90% of households planted the paddy and pulse seeds. Only 1.5% either sold their seeds or exchanged them for more-essential commodities, while 4.5% of the distributed main crop seeds were still in stock, and no more than 2.4% were eaten (mostly cowpea and to a lesser extent, black gram or green gram).
In general, the beneficiaries were moderately satisfied with the harvest obtained. For the pulse seeds (especially black gram and cowpeas, and to a lesser extent green gram), the normal ratio for seed was achieved; the ratio for paddy seeds was lower than that normally obtained for different reasons. Due to farmers’ time constraints, the largest portion of the paddy seeds were broadcast and not transplanted, as is commonly done. Also due to the time constraints, only minimum land preparation was carried out; instead of the usual three rounds of ploughing, there was only one or a maximum of two rounds. In addition, the harrowing was sometimes omitted.
B) Farm machinery distribution (power tillers and motor water pumps)
In total, 275 power tillers and 340 motor water pumps were distributed. Each unit of farm machinery was donated to a group of up to 20 farming households. Fuel (758 gallons) and lubricant (8 liters) were also included in the kit. The water pumps were initially used for cleaning smaller water ponds and later for irrigating the summer crops, or as a motor if a rice mill, thresher, or some other machinery was attached. Power tillers were mainly used for the rice land preparation: ploughing, harrowing, and levelling.
The farm machinery was efficiently used. A total of 13.4 ha of land were irrigated per water pump, which generated Myanmar kyat (MMK) 154,500 per season. Each of the distributed power tillers prepared an average of 24.5 ha of land and generated MMK 177,350 per season.
C) Vegetable seed and tool distribution
The vegetable seed kits targeted 20,400 households, including both landless and small-scale farming households. Two types of kits were distributed: one with four different vegetables and another with seven vegetable types. Each household also received one grass cutter, two sickles, and one hoe. Pesticides and sprayers were distributed to the implementing partners and used if requested by the farmers and confirmed by the extension workers. Almost all the seeds were planted; around 5% were either given away free of charge or sold, and less than 3% remained in stock for later use.
The beneficiaries obtained a significant production from the received seeds. It is not surprising, therefore, that less than half of the overall production of the vegetables was consumed at home and the rest was either sold on the market or given away free of charge. The income generated through the selling of the vegetables was significant, at an overall average of MMK 20,600 per vegetable type, ranging from MMK 3,200 for ridge gourds up to MMK 67,100 for watermelons, for a total of MMK 44,000 per household, representing three to five months of daily labor wages.
Mollet, M. (2009). Emergency support for the restoration of food security in the areas of southern Myanmar affected by Cyclone Nargis: Beneficiaries results assessment (BRA) survey. Unpublished. FAO.