Enhancing livelihoods of poor mountain communities in Myanmar


The Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica) Initiative of ICIMOD in partnership with the Institute for International Development (IID) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MoECAF) of Myanmar launched a three-year pilot project for improving livelihoods of indigenous people in the five villages of Ngwangshe and Kalaw townships in the west bank of the Inlay lake in Shan State of Myanmar. 

A team from ICIMOD led by Director General Dr David Molden and representatives from IID and MoECAF visited Shan State in February 2014. Apart from the meetings with key stakeholders, the Shan State Forest Minister chaired a special meeting to discuss the importance of hill development and appreciated the efforts of ICIMOD and its partners to introduce innovative strategies for promoting livelihood in the hills surrounding the Inlay Lake. The team was assured of full cooperation from the Shan State Government. 

The team visited the pilot villages and organised meetings with the communities to gather first hand information on the situation. During the discussions it was revealed that communities faced acute water shortage. Rainfall is the only source of water for all uses. They practice subsistence agriculture in sloping lands and cultivate some cash crops in their home gardens. And although households had water harvesting systems to capture rooftop rain water for drinking, they however did not practice any form of water storage and management for enhancing agriculture productivity. 

Further, soil erosion is rampant and communities do not have access to technology to control land degradation and fertility loss. They lack access to basic infrastructure and support services to diversify their income sources from both farm and non-farm sources.  Women spend considerable time fetching water and fuel wood and in carrying farm produce to the markets.

Together with the stakeholders it was agreed that developing models for sustainable water and land management and improved livelihoods options from farm and non-farm sources will be priority for the pilot project which is presently in the inception stage. Several local products like ginger, bamboo, beans, peanuts, non-timber forest products, and new high value crops could be promoted for income generation with appropriate water and land management practices. 

The linkages of the target groups to the booming tourism markets in the Inlay Lake will be explored and developed. Efficient management of the hill watersheds is also imperative to sustain the ecosystems in the plains of Inlay Lake area. All these will be achieved in partnership with different stakeholders from the Government, NGOs, and the private sector which will support MoECAF to design sustainable and replicable strategies to support vulnerable mountain communities to adapt to climate and socio-economic change.

Himalica is a demand-driven initiative financed by the European Union and managed by ICIMOD. It is one of three initiatives contributing to the aims of the Regional Programme on Adaptation to Change. Poverty reduction and environmental conservation is a priority for the Government of Myanmar, and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, also ICIMODs focal ministry in Myanmar, and therefore has taken a lead in this collaboration.