RECOVERY TAKES ROOT

 Ravaged by floods in 2018 and 2019, communities in the Mon State show what lessons could be learned in getting people back on their feet

In July 2018, Myanmar experienced severe monsoon floods and landslides across the country, which devastated several states and regions including Kayin, Mon, Tanintharyi and Bago. This left at least 20 people dead, 268,438 displaced, and infrastructure damage reaching US$ 3.6 million [Source: Government of Myanmar]. The agricultural sector suffered the most losses.

Enumerator from the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) illustrating one answer sheet during an interview in April 2019
Photos: GAD, Kyakmaraw Township

Enumerator from the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) during a PPSoGS interview in April 2019.

“Our paddy fields were completely destroyed. Since the roads were damaged, we could not work in the fields or go to the market to sell our produce,” recalls Daw Yi Htwe, a mother of seven children. She ekes out a living by growing rice in the village of Ah Hta Ya in Kyaikmaraw Township in Mon State. “The children couldn’t go to school and had to stay at home since the pathways were damaged.”


Daw Yi Htwe’s children range from 9 to 30 years in age, the eldest having left the town for work in Thailand. Being uneducated herself, she envisions her children educated and earning a better future for themselves. 

Paddy farming forms the backbone of Myanmar’s agriculture and much like the region of South-East Myanmar, the people of Mon state (which alone saw 10,000 people displaced (Source: OCHA) rely on agriculture as a major source of livelihood. Mon state has approximately three million acres of arable land, with a majority of this figure dedicated to rice paddies. When monsoon flooding hit the region, the paddies formed almost 90 percent of the crops damaged. The small-scale farmers were the ones who were hardest hit.



Paddy field damaged by the floods on Exposure. Photos: CDA

Ah Hta Ya village, with its unpaved roads and wooden houses with sloping roofs, lays just next to the Attran river that elegantly snakes through the landscape. Picturesque as this might seem, and despite the befits for agriculture and rearing livestock, the river’s proximity to village settlements can wreak havoc on the villagers during the monsoon season.

People in Daw Yi Htwe’s neighbourhood share similar stories of ordeals and how the disruption of the roads severed their only trade link with the market place, rendering them without a source of income.

The villagers soon devised their own coping mechanisms to deal with lost income and ways of repairing the damaged roads. With aid from the Government they then replanted their paddy fields and invested in vegetables.

The end of the monsoon season, however, led to another troublesome implication for the farmers – the new crops would all require water that was no longer available with the onset of the dry season.

UNDP stepped in at this stage, providing early recovery assistance for the most vulnerable of those affected by the floods to complement the government’s efforts. This work has been linked to UNDP’s ongoing project supporting the Department of Disaster Management on building capacities for resilient recovery.








Photos: UNDP Myanmar

To enable the farming community of Mon to overcome the immediate challenge of irrigating their replanted crops and avoid a double loss, UNDP provided fuel vouchers to assist small-landholding farmers to pump water to their paddy fields.

UNDP’s efforts further helped stabilize the livelihoods of the people in Kyaikmaraw township through two primary activities – the dredging of at-risk rivers as a flood control measure and an associated ‘cash for work scheme.’ This scheme enrolled volunteering villagers in a manual labour program to carry out repair and dredging work on the identified rivers and to dig irrigation canals in the fields to facilitate more efficient farming. This provided the locals not just with an alternate means of employment to recover their losses but also a longer-term solution to improve water management and irrigation.


UNDP provided us with fuel for pumping water to our fields. This complemented the provision of fertilizer and seeds by the government, and helped us recover our losses,” says U Saw Ohn, another paddy farmer from Kaw Ka Law village.




“The floods destroyed our crops but the provision of diesel vouchers helped a lot in irrigating my 7 acres of land. I received 4 gallons per acre and, with the help of my neighbours, I was able to pump water to my fields,” recalls Daw Khin Yee, a resident of Kyaikmaraw township, who lost her entire crop to monsoon flooding in 2018. 

Daw Yi Htwe, a recipient of both interventions, says the local community is better prepared to deal with any future floods, with the dredging helping control the flow of water into the villages and nearby fields.

“These small scale but effective interventions needs to be implemented across all areas that are prone to flood risks,” says U Saw Ohn, a local farmer in the Kaw Ka Law village in Mon State. 


Photo: Serena Arcone

A great deal remains to be done if we are to enable Myanmar’s people to prepare for, and effectively respond to, disasters such as floods and landslides, which have become yearly phenomena. In August 2019, Mon State experienced more severe flooding and rain-triggered landslides that took the lives of over 100 people and caused extensive damage to farms, houses and community infrastructure.

UNDP will continue to work with the Government of Myanmar to strengthen disaster risk reduction and recovery efforts. A core part of our work is supporting the incorporation of disaster risk management and climate change considerations into development planning at all levels so that Myanmar’s development pathway can be truly sustainable and resilient.

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The post-flood recovery interventions in Mon State are part of UNDP’s UNDP’s early recovery support to flood-affected communities in Kyaikmaraw Township in Mon State, under the Governance for Resilience and Sustainability Project. Kyaikmaraw is one of the severely affected Townships by the monsoon floods of 2018 and 2019. The intervention complements the early recovery work undertaken by the Government of Myanmar to help affected communities, in particular farmers, to recovery from the flood impact. Included in the UNDP’s early recovery interventions were distribution of fuel vouchers to irrigate replanted seeds, dredging of 4 rivers to clear-up sediments and sludge deposited and accumulated in the river beds and the cash-for-work activities. The Community Development Association (CDA), a local NGO, was UNDP's implementing partner for the cash-for-work scheme. Visit UNDP Myanmar website to read more.

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