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Supporting sustainable livelihoods and increasing food security in Myanmar - In 2011, government-led liberalising reforms in key sectors (labour, finance, media and administration) spurred a renewal of donor interest and new opportunities for Myanmar. In this evolving context, ACTED continued its support to cyclone-affected communities in the Delta while also broadening its focus to additional geographic and thematic needs. In Labutta, special focus was placed on supporting the most vulnerable households facing persistent challenges in food security. ACTED expanded the scope of its activities to the Dry Zone, one of the poorest regions of the country, addressing chronic food insecurity and restoring sustainable livelihoods through agricultural production and home gardening.
Supporting Nargis-affected communities in a long-term perspective
In 2011, the aftermath of cyclone Nargis was still affecting communities in Labutta township. In 2008, the cyclone destroyed up to 75% of agriculture production in some areas. Recovery has been hampered by rodent (rice field rats) infestations in 2009 and ongoing challenges of climate change (late rains, uneven rainfalls, flooding). Despite significant advancements in recovery, food availability is still an issue of great concern. From August to October, a period known as the “hunger months”, populations face serious food shortages. In 2011, ACTED confirmed its continuous support to communities in Labutta township. ACTED’s activities focused on vulnerable groups (pregnant and lactating women, children under five years old) to provide them with a food basket during the hunger months. In addition, ACTED distributed monsoon paddy and cowpea seeds, coupled with fertilizer, to vulnerable smallholder farmers in order to increase food availability. It also encouraged home garden production by distributing vegetable seeds. All products distributed were purchased locally in order to support the livelihoods of local producers. To ensure sustainable livelihoods, ACTED built up local capacities by providing communities with trainings on hygiene practices, nutrition, agriculture techniques and livestock management.
Responding to chronic food insecurity in the Dry Zone
The Dry Zone region (central Myanmar) is characterised by poor soil conditions, scarce water resources, blatant lack of infrastructure, and many needs remain unaddressed as compared to the level of assistance in the Delta Region. Communities are entrenched in a spiral of chronic malnutrition and indebtedness in which neither their own food production nor their financial assets enable them to access food in required quantities. In 2008, a World Food Programme study concluded that about 71% of household in the Dry Zone were in a situation of food insecurity. In particular, the Food Security Group identified Thazi and Meiktila townships (Mandalay division) as being in an extremely acute situation. In 2011, ACTED’s intervention in Thazi and Meiktila townships focused on improving both agricultural and gardening productions. As opposed to simple food distribution, enhancing the local capacity to produce food and generate income ensures the sustainability of ACTED’s activity. Seed distributions (bought in local markets), combined with technical trainings and demonstrations (modern planting techniques, compost making, seed-storage), were implemented as means to increasing the level of food security and generating income for households.
Supporting vulnerable communities and spurring women’s role in Myanmar civil society
The victory of the National League for Democracy in April 2012 in the partial legislative elections, and especially that of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, marked an important national symbol and decisive turning point for the country’s international relations. Recently suspended sanctions from the European Union will unlock financial assistance and provide new opportunities to supporting vulnerable populations. In 2012, ACTED will further diversify and scale up its assistance in Myanmar. The mission will focus on issues of food security, economic development of vulnerable communities and response to any emergency related situation, both natural (community-based disaster preparedness) and man-made (humanitarian crisis in Kachin State). It will also support civil society actors to enhance their capacity to influence key policy areas, particularly those related to women and gender considerations. To this end, ACTED has already started a country wide programme aiming at strengthening the economic rights of women. Additionally, teams have started an intervention to support communities and local authorities in Southern Yangon region to be prepared to natural disasters. ACTED has also continued its support towards food security and sustainable livelihoods in the Dry Zone. Furthermore, ACTED undertook an assessment mission to identify the support it can provide to conflict affected communities and IDPs in Kachin state.