EAT VEG: Exciting Initiatives to Reach Farmers and Vegetable Growers in Myanmar
A wide-ranging campaign in Myanmar called EAT VEG (Effective Agri Techniques for Vegetables) is transforming the lives of thousands of rural farmers and backyard growers through a variety of activities.
Key Farmers & Demonstration Plots
At the heart of East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation’s work in Asia and Africa is working directly with farmers to teach them improved agricultural techniques for growing vegetables. Key farmers demonstrate EWS-KT techniques in their fields so that other farmers can see the results of adopting these new farming methods.
The couple in the photo above grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and okra. They noted that by adopting the techniques from EWS-KT, their yield is higher and their costs are lower. EWS-KT’s recommendations on mulching, for instance, have significantly reduced their labour costs for weeding, and switching from trellising with bamboo poles to trellising with netting for their cucumber plants has also saved them money, with a good outcome for their crop.
In addition to on-field trainings at farmers’ demonstration plots, the EWS-KT Myanmar team is holding village trainings for farmers in rural areas, focusing on Magway and Naypyitaw states.
This farmer training at the public rest house in Tha Htay Kone village, in Pwint Phyu township, covered production planning, how to choose a crop and variety, seedling production, land preparation, and seedling management and bed preparation. Printed training materials and crop guides were distributed to all participants, giving them expert advice to refer to when they are back in their fields at home.
EWS-KT Myanmar consistently and successfully engages women farmers in its activities, and this training was no exception. In the second quarter of the year, 55% of the farmers trained were women.
Partnering with Agro-Input Dealers on Digital Solutions
One innovative aspect of the EAT VEG project involves digital solutions for training farmers. Through this pilot initiative, EWS-KT partners with agricultural input dealers to place video screens in their shops to share agricultural knowledge. When farmers come to the store to purchase supplies, they can now watch some of the 24 EAT VEG videos, which include technical farming videos, crop guides, product information, and more. When new videos are ready, EWS-KT field staff simply load them onto memory sticks and bring the new memory sticks to the participating agro-input dealers. This pilot is running in five townships with five different agro-input dealers.
In the photo above, Project Lead Aung La Pyae (right) interviews an agro-input dealer to get feedback on his experience with the project so far and to learn about his perspective on the pilot activities’ effectiveness, outreach rate and feasibility, and reporting requirements.
Training Community Trainers
The EAT VEG project is also exploring different ways to train young people and farmers to independently train others in their communities, with EWS-KT’s support. One of these pilot programs builds the capacity of high school graduates interested in agricultural science, and the other leverages the knowledge of former key farmers.
The EWS-KT Myanmar team set up a study farm in commercial production and home gardening in Hpa-An in June 2022 and has been training 12 young agriculturalists. These students are focusing on home gardening activities and community outreach, including how to raise public awareness on the nutritional value of vegetables.
They are also learning cost-saving and sustainable farming techniques, like how to make natural fertilisers and how to make seedling trays from banana leaves, that are helpful for both home gardeners and commercial growers. After the 3-month training period ends this fall, each student will be sharing these techniques with 100 gardeners in their home community to increase local families’ food security and nutrition.
Key farmers have a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience with EWS-KT techniques. As part of the EAT-VEG campaign, 300 former key farmers are being trained as community trainers, with the goal for each farmer to train 30 neighbouring farmers. In total, 9,000 farmers will benefit from this initiative.
Through EAT VEG, EWS-KT is implementing and assessing a variety of approaches for reaching smallholder farmers—all while building the skills and knowledge of rural farmers in Myanmar for a sustainable future.