FAO in Myanmar

COVID-19 livelihoods impact on fishing communities in select regions of Myanmar


The COVID-19 pandemic is a human health crisis and a continuing threat to the livelihood of Myanmar’s small scale fishing and aquaculture communities. The FAO/GEF Project on Strengthening the Adaptive Capacity and Resilience of Fisheries and Aquaculture-dependent Livelihoods in Myanmar (FishAdapt) conducted an assessment in its targeted  townships in Yangon South and Yangon North in the Yangon Region; in Pyapon, Labutta, and Pathein in the Ayeyarwady Region; and in Kyaukpyu, Mrauk-U, Sittwe, and Thandwe in Rakhine State.

FishAdapt's assessment sought to understand the extent and nature of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on fishing communities in selected regions for three intervals between April and August 2020.

 Overall, the key findings show an increased awareness of COVID-19 amongst community members. By the end of August 2020, however, the lack of available resources and compliance fatigue had reduced  compliance. Market prices for fishing and aquaculture products have mainly dropped down together with the demand due to market closures over the survey period. Community representatives identified job opportunities and job diversification as the most pressing priorities for a COVID-19 recovery. Early food relief packages from the government were gratefully received, but the distribution of assistance has been sporadic and geographically limited, and the criteria for receiving assistance has been confusing. Servicing financial loans has challenged many community members since the COVID-19 pandemic began and will continue to be difficult over the next year, mainly for the inflexible reimbursement schemes strictly applied by the lenders. Lastly, vulnerable community members still shoulder the burden of a slowing economy, decreased incomes, increased unemployment, and a lack of sufficient resources for basic needs.

As part of the government’s CERP, FAO recommends supporting aquaculture farmers with inputs for freshwater farming, cold storage facilities, and training for both aquaculture and fishery workers.

With regards, the FishAdapt project’s interventions have identified specific vulnerabilities related to natural resources, their management, and the impact of climate change and related disasters at the community level. These will be all specifically addressed via integrated community-based plans. The integrated community-based plans incorporate current good practices related to natural resource management and critical adaptive methodologies for climate change that have been identified and implemented by community members. Community members’ innovations and ideas in the planning stage will be analysed and implemented. The outcomes of FishAdapt’s community-level assessments done as part of the current research regarding the COVID-19 pandemic will be holistically integrated on above referred community plans.

Looking ahead, the project anticipates that fishing and the aquaculture sector will continue experiencing uncertain market demand and lower prices. The FAO’s support and that of national authorities are required to build the resilience of communities impacted by job loss and unstable incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.