Research shows government should act now to realise the economic potential of small scale agriculture

Thursday, August 28, 2014
A farmer in Dryzone where Oxfam implemented livelihoods project funded by LIFT. Photo by: Hein Latt Aung/ Oxfam

The Government of Myanmar must take action to ensure people employed in rural agriculture – over 70% of Myanmar’s population – will benefit from the country’s soaring growth prospects.
New research from Oxfam, Delivering Prosperity in Myanmar’s Dry Zone shows that small scale farmers in the Dry Zone face severe barriers to benefiting from the rising investment in Myanmar’s agricultural sector. The report explodes myths about the inefficiencies of small scale farmers and argues that with the right policies, investment in small scale farming which forms the back bone of Myanmar’s economy could reduce poverty and inequality as well as spreading the benefits of growth.

The research assesses key policies in areas such as investment laws, land, agriculture, micro-finance and women’s advancement and finds that in many cases, the policy and regulatory environment is falling short of what is needed to help small scale farmers. Central to the research is the finding that policies to promote and regulate new private investment are not creating incentives for the private sector to work with farmers in ways that will help them benefit from new economic opportunities.

“There is rising investment in agriculture but much of this is in large-scale agribusiness which history shows does not always benefit the small scale farmer. If policies do not support responsible investment – to small farmers, and in particular to women, the biggest and poorest group in Myanmar will not be set to benefit from the burgeoning investment opportunities. Says Richard Mawer, Country Director, Oxfam in Myanmar.

The evidence demonstrates that whilst women play key roles in farming households, they face even higher barriers to accessing economic opportunities than men. Women are not recognised as farmers and are too often seen as agricultural workers. Land registration and access to credit are directed at heads of households, mostly men. These barriers must be tackled if women are to play a full role in Myanmar’s economic development.

Critically, despite the policy reforms in Myanmar, the report finds that there is very little participation in decision making processes. This exclusion of those with a clear understanding of the challenges means that policies do not always reflect the needs on the ground. The report argues it is vital that the government listens to farmers and ensures that policies and regulations protect their rights.

“The policy environment does not enable small scale agriculture to generate viable incomes for farmers. As a result, farmers often turn to migration and unskilled labour work outside of the farm. It is time to set policies and priorities that give farmers real options and support them to benefit from rural livelihoods in their communities.” Says Bobby, CEO, Network Activities Group.

Notes to editors: 

Oxfam works with partners around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. As part of Oxfam International, a confederation of 17 Oxfam affiliates, we work in more than 90 countries globally. Oxfam has been working in Myanmar since 2008.Oxfam works in the Dry Zone with Network Activities Group, to deliver programmes which build capacity and voice of small scale farmers to enhance their productivity by influencing the actions of policy makers and private sector actors.

Contact information: 

Yee Mon Oo, Oxfam in Myanmar Communications Officer, +95 9-450 062997

Nyein Zarni Naing, Oxfam in Myanmar Policy Advisor , + 95 9-731-96172

Jasmine Burnley, Oxfam in Myanmar Policy and Communications Manager, +95 9-256-396-451