The establishment of Climate-Smart and Nutrition-Smart Villages in Myanmar is a major step in addressing food security and nutrition challenges.

In Myanmar, the adverse impacts of climate change are observed especially in the agriculture sector, due to increasing incidence of drought, more intense rains resulting in flooding, stronger cyclones, and salinization of farms. As an agricultural country with many smallholder farmers, the country’s food security, nutrition and livelihoods are greatly affected by the threats of climate change.

The scaling out of climate-smart agriculture technologies and practices (CSA T&Ps) using community-based adaptation (CBA) strategies is a potential solution to food security and nutrition challenges in Myanmar. To realize this goal, the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in Southeast Asia (CCAFS SEA), has worked for the establishment of Climate-Smart and Nutrition-Smart Villages (CSVs) to serve as platforms for scaling out CSA T&Ps through CBA in the country.

The CCAFS-funded short program supporting strategic field-level activities has led to more resources and support from key stakeholders. Particularly, the International Development Research Center (IDRC) provided funding for a three-year project that will fully implement the CSV program in Myanmar.

The new project, Scaling Out Community-Based Adaptation via Climate Smart Villages: Platforms to Address Food Insecurity in Myanmar, will look into how a network of CSVs implementing CBA processes can effectively influence potential next users to replicate such processes. Building on the current knowledge base on undertaking gender-sensitive, nutrition-friendly CBA, and local-level scaling-out of CSA, the project will be implemented through participatory action research in four selected villages.

CSV launching and inception workshop

In April 2018 in Yangon, IIRR launched the four CSVs in Myanmar, namely: Ma Sein village in Bogale (delta), Htee Pu village in Nyaung-Oo (dry zone), Kyaung Taung village in Nyaung Shwe (uplands), and Sakthal village in Hakha (hilly). The CSVs will serve as learning platforms for scaling-out CSA through CBA at the township level.

As part of the event, IIRR conducted the project’s inception workshop, gathering all implementing partners and other agencies providing technical assistance. During the workshop, the partners agreed on the expectations for their roles in the project, acquired a common understanding of the approaches and themes of the research, and drafted an initial budget and coordination mechanisms.  

For this year, the focus will be on building the baselines for the research, including the conduct and finalization of participatory vulnerability assessment reports, household surveys, and gender studies. The project will be producing primers in local languages which will be used in the CSV-level education activities for target farmers and households.

Smallholder farmers in Htee Pu CSV in the Myanmar Central Dry Zone learning about participatory varietal selection and homestead gardening. Photo: IIRR

Opening-wedge activities

In 2016, IIRR organized a roundtable discussion to explore the opportunities for CSA in Myanmar. Following the roundtable discussion, with support from CCAFS, IIRR carried out an in-depth scoping study to look into climate vulnerabilities in agriculture in the various agro-ecological zones of Myanmar.

In 2017, CCAFS provided a small grant to implement preliminary activities to set up two CSVs in the central dry zone and delta areas. These included participatory vulnerability assessments, testing of identified CSA options, and building partnerships with local NGOs. In Htee Pu village, IIRR and its partner the Community Development Association implemented participatory varietal selection of pigeon pea, ground nuts and green gram, and distribution of mango seedlings to demonstrate small-scale fruit tree orchards. In Ma Sein village, IIRR, together with Radanar Ayar Association, conducted testing of household-level container gardening and backyard pig raising, and set up a school garden to demonstrate vegetable production and small-scale fish culture for educating children and parents about the value of diversification.

IIRR believes that capacities to experiment and test CSA options should be nurtured by engaging farmers in observation trials and participatory varietal selection processes. Such activities help encourage farmer-to-farmer processes which often outlast the technologies. Over time, incremental adaptation is observed.

Considered “opening wedge” activities, these initial efforts aimed to build trust and cooperation between the IIRR and its partners and the smallholder farmers. These activities are meant to excite farmers about the various options that they can explore, test, and develop to address issues related to climate change. The next phase will focus on deepening the implementation of options and documenting the results of these with regards to reducing the risks to farmers brought by climate change.

In the near future, IIRR will partner with Yezin Agriculture University and local research stations to develop a portfolio of CSA options relevant to different agro-ecologies and sociocultural settings. Equity, gender, and nutrition considerations will be featured in the design of local strategies. In homesteads, schools, and every CSV, small farms will serve as complementary platforms for promoting CSA in this effort to strengthen local adaptive capacities.

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Wilson John Barbon is the Program Manager for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation and the concurrent Myanmar Country Program Coordinator of the IIRR.

Eisen Bernardo is the Senior Communication Specialist of CCAFS Southeast Asia.