Myanmar is an agriculture-based country in Southeast Asia, with 61% of the country’s 53 million people depending on agriculture for their living. The country has also been experiencing more climate extremes like drought, flood, sea-level rise and natural disasters.
Germanwatch’s Climate Risk Index for 1994-2013 even ranked Myanmar as the second most vulnerable country in the world, after Honduras. In 2008, category 4 cyclone Nargis hit the country. According to a World Bank report, Nargis severely affected the country’s agriculture sector with losses equivalent to 80,000 tons and damaging 251,000 tons of stored crops, across 34,000 hectares of cropland.
At first, it might seem daunting to address climate change in such a country. However, the recent launching of Myanmar’s Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategy has paved the path towards guided planning for national climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Dr. Tin Htut, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) of Myanmar, said during his keynote speech at the MCSA launching:
Extreme climate variabilities are evident, natural disasters are increasing from year to year, and human activities aggravate the impacts of climate change. These bleak scenarios bear significant impacts on food production.
He emphasized that Myanmar urgently needs to develop climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices and technologies to boost agriculture and to have more options for climate adaptation and mitigation.
Developing the roadmap
During the 24th ASEAN Summit in May 2014, Myanmar committed to apply CSA to contribute to regional food security and environmental protection. CSA focuses on three pillars in tackling climate change: food security, adaptation, and mitigation.
The first national consultation meeting on 'Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategies in Myanmar' was conducted in September 2013, facilitated by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The meeting was said to be pivotal in the development of the strategy. "The event itself was a great opportunity to increase integration across the department within MOAI and other ministries, and a strengthened ability to work with a wide range of partners and stakeholders in achieving key development goals,” said Dr. Tin Maung Aye, researcher from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
In drafting the strategy, MOAI worked closely with the Yezin Agricultural University (YAU) and other local and international partners and stakeholders. The strategy articulates the development of technical, policy and investment conditions to achieve sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition, and climate resilience. It provides context and analysis for addressing agriculture in international climate negotiations to better inform climate negotiators and other stakeholders by identifying options and unpacking issues of interest.
MOAI Union Minister U Myint Hlaing stated in the strategy that it “should be socially, culturally and politically appropriate, environmentally and economically feasible to promote sustainable agriculture with maximized food security and nutrition, development, climate adaptation, and mitigation.”
The strategy aligns with the country’s National Adaptation and Plan of Action (NAPA) for climate change, which prioritizes agriculture, early warning systems and forest in its plans and development initiatives.
Taking the next steps
The MOAI shall be the main implementing agency of Myanmar's climate-smart agriculture strategy in collaboration with other government agencies and local and international partners within Myanmar and in other ASEAN countries. Another strategic area for collaboration is the implementation of Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs) where YAU will serve as the focal point.
The strategy institutionalizes CSVs in Myanmar as a community-based approach to a climate-resilient and sustainable agricultural development. CSVs are benchmark villages that are vulnerable to climate change impacts and where CSA interventions will be tested, prioritized and implemented in close cooperation with the village, government units, and other stakeholders. The CSV approach is a core program that CCAFS is promoting.
Dr. Leo Sebastian, regional program leader for CCAFS Southeast Asia, hopes that Myanmar's climate-smart agriculture strategy will stimulate investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture in the country. For him, the strategy should also bring about policies that would help farmers in Myanmar cope with the impacts of climate change. "Without the MCSA Strategy, Myanmar's agriculture sector will not sustain its crop production in the context of climate change," stated Dr. Myo Kywe, rector of YAU.
The foundation has been laid. The next challenge now is translating the strategy into on-the-ground initiatives to achieve agricultural productivity and have climate-ready villages, provinces, and country.
Photo: Khant Zaw/Flickr