A study on the impact of sustainable rice farming on rural women in Myanmar revealed that smallholder families who adopted best management practices experienced remarkable social and cultural changes in their livelihoods through higher yield and income.
Sustainable farming practices are at the center of food security and improved livelihoods. They are also the basis for research and development interventions, especially in rice-based ecosystems, which provide the staple food of most of Asia.
As one of Asia’s rice granaries, Myanmar aims to regain its past position as a huge contributor to regional and global food security through rice-based adaptive research for improving the productivity of diversified cropping systems.
Myanmar’s Department of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have a long-standing alliance in promoting the use of best management practices (BMP). BMP is a technology package of agronomic practices developed by IRRI and verified through adaptive trials that includes using balanced nutrition and postharvest technologies to increase yield and efficiency of rice production.
Sustainable futures for women
A study on the impact of sustainable rice farming on rural women in Myanmar revealed that smallholder families who adopted BMPs experienced remarkable social and cultural changes in their livelihoods. The paper highlighted that rural women, 34-64 years old, described the changes they and their family members experienced by following BMPs which resulted in increased yield and income.
“Women observed that they had better financial and physical capital,” said Melanie Connor, a social scientist at IRRI’s Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint Project (CORIGAP) project and lead author of the study. “This enabled them to acquire new machines that made rice farming easier, thus, having more time to devote to other small-scale businesses such as shops, home gardens, community activities, and farming of other cash crops.”
Having more income also enabled the women to acquire better health services since they can now afford to get treatment for themselves and other family members.
“The family also acquired better nutritional status by having more variety of food to offer to the family,“ Dr. Connor added. “The women also shared how they are now more involved in community activities, particularly rendering volunteer services in the pagodas by cleaning it and preparing meals for the devotees.”
Gaining control over their lives, community, and society
Su Su San, an assistant scientist at IRRI and co-author of the study, added that the women also claimed that they were able to apply the knowledge they gained about BMPs for their other crops.
“It seems with the changes women have described, they are starting to strengthen their ability to act and gain control over their lives, community, and society,” Ms. San said.
The researchers recommend that providing more development projects that target different livelihood domains will enhance this strength and enable further improvements in the livelihoods of smallholder families in Myanmar.
“This can definitely spark multi-faceted innovations that will achieve the country’s target of achieving food security and improved livelihoods,” said Dr. Connor.
The research was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation through CORIGAP and the MYRice project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
Read the study (not open access):
Connor M and San SS. (2020) Sustainable rice farming and its impact on rural women in Myanmar. Development in Practice. DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2020.1787350
Ms. Quilloy is a senior communication specialist at the Mechanization and Postharvest Cluster under IRRI’s Sustainable Impact Platform.