In Myanmar, FAO helps restore livelihoods in the aftermath of Cyclone Komen

Income-generating livestock distribution helps conflict-affected families recover. 

Key facts

Rakhine is one of the poorest states in Myanmar with a poverty rate of 78 percent according to World Bank figures. Some 90 percent of the state’s population lives in rural villages and depends on farming as a source of livelihood. Of them, 60 percent are landless and rely either on sharecropping, a system of agricultural production where a landowner allows a farmer to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced, or renting land to survive. Rakhine’s population is comprised of many different ethnic and religious groups, a significant proportion of which have been displaced as a result of conflict. Conflict has also resulted in loss of lives and livelihoods. FAO and the Government of Myanmar, with funding from the French Fund for Food Aid (AAP), worked to strengthen the food security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable households affected by inter-community conflict in 20 villages in Sittwe, Mrauk U and Min Bya Townships in northern Rakhine State. The project was further extended and scaled up after Cyclone Komen struck the country mid 2015, bringing heavy rains and floods that resulted in significant damages to the agriculture sector, leaving these communities even more vulnerable.

Building the path to recovery for families in Tha Koar village
Like so many communities in rural Myanmar, the 114 families in Tha Koar village depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The village is located in the central Rakhine state, one of the six states worst affected by the floods brought about by Cyclone Komen.

In this village alone, nearly one-third of the houses were swept away and destroyed by heavy flooding, killing livestock and wiping out most of the paddy crops. Although the paddy crops were replanted immediately after the disaster, by then the growing season had passed resulting in a much smaller harvest than expected.

Moreover, the floods damaged much of the stored seeds and farmers, who lost most of their livestock to the floods, were unable to plough their land.  As a result, families also feared their winter vegetable crop would be cut by two-thirds, compared to a normal year.

Six months after the cyclonic storm hit the region, nearly one-fifth of the community’s farmland was still covered with logs. Cutting them by hand and using the logs as firewood, farmers were making steady but slow progress in cleaning the fields.

With support from the Government of France, a one-year FAO project to improve food security and livelihoods for conflict-affected communities was already underway before Komen struck. In the aftermath of the cyclone, FAO intensified its efforts to provide assistance to 32 more affected households in Tha Koar. 

With support from the French Fund for Food Aid, each family in the village received five laying hens. Village chairman Maung Phyu Chay, 36, said this assistance is enabling families to produce eggs for home consumption and enhance their protein intake, while surplus production can be sold in the local market or bartered.

Daw Mah Taung Sein, 60, lives with her two daughters and her two-year-old grandson. “Because of the floods, we had less food and were struggling to make ends meet,” she says.

Her plan is to use the poultry to provide nutritious eggs to her family and breed more chicken, which she could sell into the local market. “I could get 10 000 kyat (around US$ 7.70) for a large chicken at the market,” she says.  She intends to use her earnings to buy enough rice to feed her household for at least six more months.”

This project is part of FAO’s broader emergency programme in Myanmar, which includes other projects in Sagaing, Chin and Rakhine. FAO has called for US$12.1 million to provide assistance to 332 750 conflict and flood-affected people under the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar. 

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