Thursday, March 10, 2016

Women rice farmers: Myanmar’s next seed growers?

YANGON, MyanmarAlthough women’s contributions to Myanmar’s agriculture are limited by gender-based barriers, they are increasingly being tapped as producers of rice seed through the Stress-Tolerant Rice in Vulnerable Environments (STRIVE) project.

There is currently a lack of rice seed growers in the country so women rice farmers are starting to train and engage in high-quality seed production.

Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the project enlisted women interested in seed production from villages in Yangon in 2014.

“We provided them with high-quality seed of stress-tolerant varieties and encouraged them to complete 7-8 days of seed production training on their farm,” explained Dr. Madonna Casimero, IRRI scientist and leader of the STRIVE project. “Now we have at least five successful women rice farmers who earn twice as much by selling high-quality rice seed.

“They are also thinking about expanding the area where they are producing seed to more than 1 hectare, which is what the STRIVE project is able to support at the moment,” Casimero added. "Many of these women farmers own more than 1 hectare of rice land, sometimes as many as 10 hectares, which is not uncommon for many farmers in Myanmar. This gives them the opportunity to grow and sell more seed."

“Having the skills to produce quality seed and being able to sell and earn a better income has helped empower these women farmers,” said Casimero. “One woman actively mobilized other farmers in her community to practice the principles of good-quality seed production on their farms.

“During the next phases of STRIVE, we’re also thinking of introducing Palayamanan, a tried-and-tested concept in the Philippines in which farmers can integrate other agricultural components such as poultry, small livestock, and fish into their rice farms,” said Casimero. “In addition to higher income and food security, this approach could also provide farmers and their families with better nutrition.”

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