Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mechanized rice straw collection training in Myanmar enhances gender equality on sustainable rice straw management

Dr. Thi Thi Aung maneuvering the tractor with a square baler in the field.

A training program for mechanized rice straw collection increased the knowledge and capacity of its participants, many of them women, in extending sustainable rice straw management practices to Myanmar farmers.

9 women and 16 men engaged in development and extension work for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation (MOALI) and a non-government organization were given instruction on the operation and maintenance of mechanical rice straw balers during the Rice Straw Management Training Workshop conducted at the Agricultural Machinery Training Center (AMTC) in Yezin on 4-14 November 2019.

The training was conducted under the aegis of the World Bank-funded Agricultural Development Support Project (ADSP) and implemented by the Agricultural Mechanization Division of MOALI in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Basic skills on safe tractor driving and preventive maintenance were imparted to the participants  from the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Agricultural Mechanization Division (AMD), and Welthhngerhilfe (WHH) via classroom discussions and actual operation of rice straw balers at a farmer’s field at Kyoe Pin village, Thiri Township in Naypyitaw. Each participant was given the opportunity to drive the tractor and perform mechanized collection of scattered rice straw in the field using round and square baling machines.

Rice straw leftovers after combine harvesting have been casually burned or incorporated in flooded soil by farmers as a quick and easy method to dispose and decompose the biomass during land preparation season. The use of rice straw balers enabled optimized collection of scattered rice straw in the field for alternative and income generating uses such as mushroom production, animal feedstock, and bioenergy.

Dr. Thi Thi Aung, assistant research officer of Rice BioPark mentioned that the training “gave us knowledge on handling the rice straw baler machine, and it was not really that difficult to operate. In the training we also realized that tractor driving and operation of mechanical balers can also be done by women. We also understand that the use of baler is time-saving and could reduce rice straw waste and the amount of straw being burned in the field.”

“This is the first time that we have operated a tractor and our first time seeing a baler machine,” claimed Nyein Chan Moe, an agronomist of WHH. “The baler will be good for farmers because baled straw can help save time and space for collecting and storing rice straw for cattle and buffalo feed, and this can help them save money and increase their income.”

Participants posting in front of the Baling machine after conducting field training

The hands-on exercise in operating the baler machine was a new training technique encountered by the participants, who are mostly extension staff of the government and non-government agencies working on agricultural development in Myanmar. The use of rice straw baler is not commonly seen in Myanmar due to lack of an established value chain on rice straw and is not affordable to most smallholder farmers. The concept of a business model for sustainable rice straw management was also introduced in the training, in order to enhance dissemination of the technology to other users and to strengthen the rice straw value chain.

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