14 Feb Action Aid, UMFCCI, MCU workshop

Written by Hans Hulst Published in Features Read 3275 times

Building a better future for the rural poor

Rice farmers in Irrawaddy region. Photo: Min Min
Rice farmers in Irrawaddy region. Photo: Min Min

The years of military rule left the Myanmar economy in tatters. State control and economic isolation led to the emergence of a large informal economy, a crippled manufactoring sector and widespread poverty. A small elite profited, but most of Myanmar had to deal with shortages, unemployment and inflation.

The overwhelming majority of the poor in Myanmar, 75 percent, live in rural areas. Rural development is the key to tackling poverty in the country. In 2013, President U Thein Sein highlighted rural development as a key focus of the government. The “Strategic Framework for Rural Development-2013”, initiated by the Ministry of Livestock, Fishery and Rural Development, has as its main objective the growth of small and medium enterprises in rural areas.

Basic services and infrastructure are lacking in rural areas. How can rural communities link up with rural service providers to bridge the inequality gap? What are efficient strategies to help rural communities to enjoy the fruits of the reform process?

These and other questions will be discussed on February 9 at a workshop organised by INGO Action Aid in cooperation with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Myanmar Consumer Union, a Yangon-based NGO that promotes consumer rights.

Action Aid’s Head of Programme in Myanmar, Tauhid Ibne Farid, explained why the workshop is important.

“We have been realising for a couple of years that we need to link up the private sector with rural development programs,” said Mr Tauhid . “The private sector is not really fully engaged yet. But it’s a big player with a huge potential to boost the rural economy in more systematic manner . As Action Aid we
are active in social enterprise development as well. It would be worthwhile to engage the private sector in this. only if the main market forces get involved can social enterprises be sustainable giving more income to rural families. The workshop is meant to link up different players and find out how the private sector can contribute,” he said.

The private sector is primarily profit driven, but Mr Tauhid believes there is a genuine willingness to link up and promote social enterprise and foster rural development.

“When we talk to, for example City Mart, they are a wholesale buyer of agriculture produce,” he said. “They get their supplies from the middleman. We are trying to link them up with rural producers to ensure farmers get a fair price for their product. Both sides would benefit. We think such a value chain system can easily benefit rural development if we bridge the gap between the private sector and rural communities.”

The workshop will be attended by government officials, appex asociation of private sector, companies, civil society organisations and donors. “Some of the donors are already investing a lot in rural development but lacking linkages with private sector. We want to explore the ideas and potential of linking up with the private sector,” said Mr Tauhid What does Action Aid want the workshop to achieve?

“We want to map the stakeholders and find out what their expectations are in contributing to rural development,” he said. “We also would like to have a better understanding of the potential, the challenges and how we can promote dialogue between private sector and rural communities and conquer the stumbling blocks. Another thing that is important to us, is that we want to find ways to engage women and promote women enterpreunership in rural development.”

This Article first appeared in the February 5, 2015 edition of Mizzima Weekly.

Mizzima Weekly is available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at www.mzineplus.com