Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Some people might get to work by cars or motorbikes, others by public transport. For Than, it’s a walk down a narrow and muddy road. During the wet season, between May and October, it’s a battle through floodwaters.

The 28-year-old single father takes the two-kilometre walk from his home in Buchai village, in remote southeast Myanmar, each day to his farm, where he grows a variety of vegetables to sell at the markets.

The farmer’s life is challenging, he says, as his source of income is largely dependent on the weather and climate. The past year has been more difficult than usual, with poor weather affecting crop yields.

“The weather has not been good this year,” Than says. “My business is not doing well.”

For five months of the year, during the dry season, he works at a rubber plantation to supplement his income so he can raise his six-year-old son Hein.

Supporters of ChildFund’s Gifts for Goods program have been helping to alleviate the difficulty that farmers such as Than and their families in rural Myanmar face, particularly during the wet season, by providing a variety of seeds to diversify and boost farmers’ incomes.

Than, who grows snake gourds, long beans, chillies and okra on his farm, received cucumber seeds, which grow well at this time of the year in Myanmar.

“I planted all the cucumber seeds I received from ChildFund,” he says. “I have also already sold some of the cucumbers.

“I am happy that we have been provided the seeds because there are some people in my village who can’t afford to buy the seeds for their farms.”

When he makes a profit from selling his vegetables at the market, he puts some money away for Hein’s future.

While Than left school after Grade 4 to help his parents, who were also farmers, he wants a different life for his son.

“I’ve been farming for eight years and my dad has been doing it for 20 years,” Than says. “Our lives haven’t changed.

“I don’t want my son to be a farmer like me. I want him to become an educated person. He said he wants to be an engineer so I’ll try my best to get him the education he wants.”

Nhung recalls the constant struggle of trying to raise a family-of-six on a small farm with an unreliable water source.

“We could grow only one rice crop per year on half of the land while the other half was used to grow soy bean or maize as we did not have any water,” she says. “Everything depends much on the conditions in the area.”

Nhung says it was a constant struggle to provide enough money to send her two oldest children to school.

“I do not remember a time we had any money left over and each time my oldest baby got sick the whole family had to ask for help from friends and relatives,” she says.

Things got better when they participated in farming models supported by ChildFund and the local government.

“Households in the villages now combine all the land we have in one area and by doing that we have more resources,” she says. “ChildFund supported us by building four concrete canals which provide enough water for the whole fields to grow two crops per year. Not only our family but many other families are still benefiting from these canals.”

Over the years, Nhung and her husband have expanded their farm and used savings to invest in a harvesting business that services local farms.

“We make use of the rice and corn powder from our harvesting services to raise chickens and pigs in the backyard,” Nhung says. “They provide not only food for my children but also extra income for the surrounding families. I am so happy that we saw the opportunities and decided to invest in this business.”

A keen learner, Nhung also studied modern farming techniques to improve her land’s productivity.

“We used to use a lot of fertiliser in our farming but now, but we have used more efficient techniques to cut down the amount of fertiliser we use. Also, working with agriculture staff taught us about new seeds which have proved successful.”

The 3.5km canal provides water for 86 hectares of farmland, benefiting more than 500 households.