Delivering Prosperity in Myanmar's Dryzone

Lessons from Mandalay and Magwe on realizing the economic potential of small - scale farmers

Women Farmers in Myanmar Dryzone, Photo by: Hein Latt Aung/ Oxfam
Paper author: 
Jodie Thourpe with support from Nyein Zarni Naing, Jasmine Burnely, and Rob Nash
Paper publication date: 
Thursday, August 28, 2014

Myanmar is undergoing intense and rapid changes. Policies formulated today will determine the future path of political and economic development. Modernization of the country‟s agricultural sector is, rightly, a priority. However, mechanization and large-scale agricultural investment is not the only option. Small farm development provides a commercially viable option with better outcomes in terms of poverty reduction and positive impacts on other sectors. Small farms absorb labour, allow communities to build assets and help local markets flourish.1 It is crucial that Myanmar promotes the right type of agricultural investment – that which supports the country‟s millions of small-scale farmers and farm labourers, as well as their families.


The Government of Myanmar must:

  • Reallocate public budget to increase agricultural spending, particularly to improve the quality and reach of extension services and inputs, and support effective and participatory delivery of the Rural Development Strategic Framework.
  • Reverse gender-based social and political inequalities and ensure recognition of the value of women‟s work, including in agriculture.
  • Implement decentralization and empower and resource local government departments to focus on farmer-identified challenges.
  • Support the development of agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations based on an appropriate regulatory framework, and empower them to link to and work with the local private sector.
  • Support farmers to build resilience to climate change by supporting crop diversification, greater access to more flexible credit, and risk management measures such as weather-indexed crop insurance.
  • Reform the land registration process for small-scale farmers (SSFs) to make it simpler and more transparent, ensure farmers‟ rights are protected, and stop land acquisitions without proper consultation and compensation based on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

Donors must:

  • Ensure that aid, and accompanying technical advice, is used to help the government support growth and food security through small-scale agriculture, and to establish strong governance, transparency and environmental and social safeguards.
  • Support the development of inclusive policy processes. Build the capacity of civil society and farmers to influence policy design and implementation, and budget processes. Encourage the creation of multi-stakeholder spaces where farmers, civil society, the private sector and government can jointly develop inclusive value chains.

Private investors must:

  • Comply with the letter and spirit of domestic laws in Myanmar and international standards and norms, whichever is highest.
  • Conduct environment and social impact assessments for investments, in consultation with affected communities, including women. Avoid deals that involve displacement of communities, and for investments involving land acquisition, ensure that full transparency is provided and the principle of FPIC is respected and upheld.
  • Adhere to a fair sharing of risk and benefits in contract farming and related arrangements with small-scale farmers. Ensure fair and transparent terms of trade, quality standards and pricing structures, as well as transparent and equitable dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Prioritise investments that support and work with local producers and markets, contributing to the success of small-scale farmers, rather than marginalising or displacing them.