myammarMyanmar (certain countries still using the old name Burma) is the second largest country in Southeast Asia. Its capital is Nay Pyi Taw and the largest city Yangon. The country enjoys about 400 miles of uninterrupted coastline. The population is about 60.2 million.

 Myanmar is divided into seven states and seven regions, which are further divided into 67 districts. The districts are sub-divided into townships, sub-townships, towns, wards, village tracts and villages. In spite of being rich in natural resources, Myanmar is one of the least developed and poorest countries in the world. The infrastructure is inadequate and energy shortages common.

Myanmar lies in the monsoon region of Asia and as such its coastal areas receive heavy rainfall. The climate in summer is hot, rainy and humid while the winters have less humidity, scant rainfall and mild temperatures.

Context

Context

Agriculture is the most important sector accounting for about 60 percent of the GDP and employing about 65 percent of the country’s workforce.  Rice is the main crop covering some 60 percent of the total cultivated area. Other crops include pulses, beans, sesame, groundnut and sugarcane. Livestock, fishery and lumber are also important. Slash-and-burn method of shifting cultivation is still common to render arable land. Myanmar has been a major producer of opium, but government ban on its cultivation since 2002 has left farmers without any viable source of sustained income.

Key Statistics and Indicators

Indicator

Value

Year  

Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)

124,400

19.03

11035000

16.88

0.23

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

Fertilizer consumption (Kg per hectare of arable land)

5.40

2009

Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)

48.35

127.18

53.39

14.65

2004

2010

1992

1992

GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)

NA

 

Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)

92.02

95.31

96.05

99.23

106.48

2009

2009

2009

2009

2010

Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)

1.23

0.22

2010

2009

Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population

Rural population (% of total population)

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population**

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of total economically active population in agriculture)*

48,336,763

73.39

31703550.93

66.1

66.55

27431220

18789000

68.49

47.81

2011

2010

2010

2010

2011

2010

2010

2010

2010

Sources: The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO,  ** http://www.nationmaster.com     

History

History of Extension and the Enabling/Disabling Environment

Agricultural extension service in Myanmar was started by the Department of Agriculture in 1927, that is, about 21 years before the country’s independence. The extension service was responsible for providing educational activities, collection of statistical data, enforcement of standard weights and measures, procurement and distribution of improved seed, farm equipment, fertilizers and insecticides. The distribution of seed and the delivery of inputs were considered as extension’s main activities. In 1976, the Training & Visit (T & V) system of extension was introduced under a World Bank financed project. However, the operations and resource persons could not be sustained after the end of the project. From 1979 to 1986, the Selected Concentrative Strategy (SCS), more or less similar to the T & V system, developed by the national staff was followed in a special production program focusing on high-yielding crops in irrigated areas. This strategy along with the T & V system continues till today.

Knowledge, Information and Technology (KIT)
Agricultural research, education (training) and extension programs in Myanmar are covered through obtaining and utilizing knowledge, information and technology (KIT). Specific activities include research, collection of existing KIT from other countries, training of research scientists and extension workers, provision of extension advice to farmers, enabling farmers and community-based organizations to participate in the activities of farmer development community or agricultural cooperatives. The training and extension programs are organized with two objectives: first, to ensure that officials, farmers and others interested in agri-business have access to and are well equipped to benefit from the best available KIT related to agriculture, agri-business and farm management; second, to enable the rural community to take common action in matters of agriculture, agri-business and farm management. Education of farmers is done through mass media (newspapers, radio, television and journals), distribution of pamphlets, and training and visits by the extension agents to individuals or groups of farmers.

Agricultural extension services in Myanmar are traditional. Several factors pose as constraints in meaningful development of its farmers. For example, extension program planning remains prerogative of the government with little involvement of men and women farmers. In other words, farmers’ extension needs are not taken into consideration. There are no well established farmers’ associations to constitute a strong lobby. All along, the emphasis has been on improved technology to enhance agricultural production while the importance of developing skills, knowledge and proper attitudes of the farmers has not received much attention. Rural infrastructure, and farm infrastructure in particular, is under-developed and the electrification is scant. Low salaries and benefits, lack of mobility and inadequate operational budgets lower the morale of otherwise sufficient number of extension staff.

There is only one agricultural university whose role in supporting extension has not yet been defined. In addition, its agricultural extension curriculum is outdated. While it is good to see coordination among the Agricultural Extension Division, Seed Division and the Central Agricultural Research Institute in several important activities, there is no evidence of Agricultural Extension Division promoting cooperation among public and non-public institutions. In fact, contacting common farmers for imparting technical extension advice on food crops is not a high priority for the private sector.

Due to government rules, NGOs also face a number of hurdles in carrying out human development work, especially in rural areas. Another factor that lengthens red tape in extension matters is too many layers of bureaucracy in the public extension service.

Various types of sanctions imposed by individual countries or development agencies for whatever reasons are no help in developing poor farmers’ communities. Only recently the international isolation of Myanmar has started to fade due to long awaited political reforms in the country. Myanmar is a country full of natural resources most of which have not yet been tapped. There is no doubt that with enhanced involvement of the donor community the country can progress faster in all aspects including rural and agriculture development.

There are about 16 UN agencies and several multilateral and bilateral donors present in Myanmar in spite of certain international sanctions. Some of them are as follows:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – mainly in humanitarian assistance
  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – mainly in technical assistance, soft loans and grants
  • European Union – mainly in poverty alleviation through MDGs
  • Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) – mainly in health, food security, sustainable livelihoods, basic education and water and sanitation
  • Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – mainly assistance in programs of regional interest

Extension Providers

Major Institutions Providing Extension/Advisory Services

Public Institutions

Agriculture Extension Division, Myanmar Agriculture Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation  

The Myanmar Agriculture Service (MAS), headed by a Managing Director, is the sole government institution responsible for providing public extension services to the farmers. The MAS performs functions including extension towards the following objectives:

  • The increased production of major crops;
  • The development of improved production technology through proper research on management of soil crop and pest control;
  • The development of suitable high-yielding crop varieties;
  • The transfer of appropriate crop production technology through agricultural extension program;
  • The distribution of certified seeds through the seed program;
  • The provision of agricultural inputs;
  • The classification of soils and advising on soil conservation techniques;
  • The exploration of export markets on some agricultural produce.

The MAS is one of 14 institutions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. It has nine divisions, the Agriculture Extension Division (AED) being the biggest. Recently, the AED has been undertaking the following extension activities:

  • Training and capacity building of extension agents;
  • Training of farmers in transfer of technology through Farmers Field Schools (FFS); Farmers to farmers discussion, training and education;
  • Farmer-based participatory demonstration trials and field visits by local authorities and extension agents;
  • Delivery of educational materials, pamphlets, newsletters and books on new crops;
  • Education of farmers in the utilization of quality seed, drum seeder, combine harvester, dryers, etc.
  • Explanation of post-production losses in rice production to the farmers;
  • Cooperation among government, non-government and other relevant institutions for the dissemination of advanced technology at village level.

The staff hierarchy of the AED is multi-layered. Starting from the top, it includes: Managing Director of MAS, General Manager (Agriculture), Deputy General (Manager), Manager (Deputy State/Divisional), Manager (District), Assistant Manager (Township Manager), Deputy (Township Manager), Village Tract Manager, and Village Manager.

The extension coverage by various managers differs from locality to locality depending on several factors including communication facilities. On average, a Village Manager, who is supposed to maintain direct contacts with farmers, is required to cover a few village tracts or villages with 1,215 to 2,430 hectares of cropland. As many as 10 Village Managers are supervised by each Village Tract Manager. The Village Tract Extension Service is involved in promoting rural development.

The AED uses the following approaches and programs for updating agricultural techniques of farmers’ communities:

  • Large scale education camps
  • Farmers Field Schools
  • Ten-member farmers’ groups (Se-Le-Su) for extension contacts
  • Training & Visit system
  • Special high-yielding programs
  • Special crop production zones
  • Block-wise crop production programs
  • Farmers’ participatory technology development approach

As of 2002, there were 35 Seed Farms, 17 Research Stations, 53 Horticultural Farms, 10 Field Crops Farms and five (5) Crop Substituting Farms in the opium cultivation areas—all under MAS. Among these, Horticultural Farms, Field Crops Farms, and Crop Substituting Farms are engaged in extension activities related to crop and horticultural production, crop protection, systematic fertilizer application and soil and water management. All these activities are undertaken under the supervision of the Agriculture Extension Division, which is also responsible for seed multiplication and distribution in coordination with the Central Agricultural Research Institute and the Seed Divisions for major crops, that is, rice, maize, pulses, oilseed, vegetables and fruits. 

Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI)

The CARI is located near Yezin, about 250 miles north of Yangon. It has 10 disciplinary divisions individually concentrating on agronomy, plant physiology, plant pathology, entomology, agricultural chemistry, small scale farm implements, seed bank, regional research and development, agricultural economics, and management and accounts.

In addition, CARI has seven (7) crop divisions to individually cover rice, other cereals, fiber crops, oil crops, food legumes, sugar crops, and horticulture.

All the extension activities of the state and division level agricultural research stations are organized by CARI.

Seed Division
The Seed Division has the following responsibilities:

  • To produce and distribute quality seed systematically;
  • To conduct systematic quality control activities to maintain seed with genetic identity, varietals    purity and high germination
  • To conduct training, workshop and field days
  • To establish Model Registered Seed Growing Villages for multiplication of certified seed
  • To demonstrate the effective use of small farm implements and machinery

Extension activities related to pure seed production and seed multiplication are carried out by the Seed Division.

Table 1: Number of public extension staff in agriculture, forestry, fishery and rural development in Myanmar as in 2009

Discipline

Total Extension Staff

Female Extension Staff only

Support Staff

Agriculture (including crops and livestock)

5,631

2,574

1,760

Forestry

 

11

 

Fishery (Marine and aquaculture)

20

5

30

Rural Development

5,296

2,384

1,678

Source: Investment Assessment Project survey; FAO Rome; 2010

Table 2: Academic Qualifications and Gender of Human Resources in Agricultural Extension in Myanmar as in 2010

Staff Categories

  1. Second. School Diploma
   

2-3 Year Agriculture Diploma

 
  1. B.Sc. Degree
 
  1. M.Sc./Ing. Agric.
 
  1. Ph.D.

Gender

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

Senior Management Staff

       

78

172

 

5

 

2

Subject-matter Specialists (SMS)

       

161

225

55

20

22

4

Field Level Extension Staff

   

430

800

1,620

940

       

ICT Support Staff

           

5

5

   

In-service Training Staff

                   

Total

4,544

   

430

800

1,859

1,337

60

30

22

6

Source: Myanmar Agriculture Service

The Yezin University of Agriculture  

The Yezin University of Agriculture is the only institution of higher learning in agriculture in Myanmar. It is located about 11 miles north of Pyinmana in Nay Pyi Daw Yezin, and has a farm which has access to irrigation.

The goal of the university is to educate students to enable them to attain high standard in agricultural sciences, and generate well qualified agriculturists for the country. The university has nine (9) departments of basic and applied agricultural sciences, and offers both B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in agricultural sciences. Recently, the university has started Ph.D. program. The faculty is well qualified and experienced faculty. Some of the teaching staff has received post-graduate training overseas.

Myanmar Academy of Agriculture, Forestry, Livestock and Fishery Sciences

Myanmar Academy of Agricultural, Forestry, Livestock and Fishery Sciences was established by the government in 1999. The main objective of the academy is to promote the science and technology for the development of national economy, and collaborate with international scientific institutions. The mandate of the academy is to assist in the implementation of human resource development programs through various types of training for the existing staff. Another approach is to organize the young scientists from different fields to conduct research and to write papers on new findings, which could be published later.

Non-Public Institutions

Private sector

Presently, there are no private companies involved in extension work. However, there are commercial trade companies, some based in other countries, which handle export or import of various agricultural commodities such as timber and a variety of other items. A list of such companies supposedly in Myanmar may be seen at the website:

 http://www.list-of-companies.org/Myanmar/Agriculture .

Not long ago, the government has created Myanmar Rice Industry Association (MRIA) to promote the export of rice. The MRIA has been created by merging three existing associations namely, the Myanmar Rice and Traders’ Association, the Myanmar Millers’ Association and the Myanmar Paddy Producers’ Association.

Non-governmental organizations

 all the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Myanmar are international, which have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) or Letters of Agreements LOA) with the government. In spite of certain difficulties in working in the field mainly caused by international sanctions, there were about 65 NGOs active in various sectors Myanmar including agriculture, health and post-disaster rehabilitation. Their funding could be from Japan, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, France, Norway, Italy, etc. Examples of such NGOs are:

  • Action Aid Myanmar (AAM
  • Water Research and Training Center – Myanmar (WRTC-Myanmar
  • World Vision Myanmar (WVM
  • Saetanar 
  • Capacity Building Initiative (CBI)
  • Population Services International (PSI)

Some of the operational constraints faced by the NGOs in working in Myanmar include a lack of mobility of expatriate staff, changing rules of visa approval, short-term donor funding, weak local capacity, lack of reliable data and government bureaucratic procedures.

A list of 63 NGOs may be found at the website http://www.aseanpostnargiskm.org/knowledge-base/links/ngos-in-myanmar

Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

In general, there has been little encouragement in Myanmar to form farmers’ associations at village level and above. Apart from farmers’ groups formed by the Myanmar Agriculture Service, no significant extension-related associations exist. The following two associations have been identified but they are commercial and export-oriented in character:

  • Myanmar Fish Farmers Association (MFFA)
  • Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers’ Association (MRPPA

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Myanmar. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.

Training

 

Training Options for Extension Professionals

According to the Myanmar Agriculture Service, training in agricultural disciplines including extension takes place at the following three institutions:

  • The Yezin University of Agriculture
  • Myanmar Agriculture Service
  • Myanmar Academy of Agriculture, Forestry, Livestock and Fishery Sciences

The Department of Technical and Vocational Education (DTAVE), Ministry of Education has ten types of institutes under it, which offer short-term training and long-term regular courses. A  Government Technical Institute (GTI) and seven (7) State Agricultural Institutes (SAI) offer diploma programs. Myanmar also has Mobile Vocational Training Teams and Skill-based Literacy Training Programs at township level.

In spite of all this, according to a review of agriculture sector, specialized training programs based on farmers’ needs and constraints, agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions, and realities of research and extension organizations, are virtually non-existent.

A paper by Khin Mar Cho and Hermann Boland (2004), based on a research study conducted in Myanmar in April 2001, shows the in-country and overseas training received by extension agents located in five different regions, as follows:

Table 3: Extent of training in technical disciplines received by extension agents in Myanmar during the period 1995-2000

Technical discipline in which training was provided

Percentage of content received through training

Crop production

33%

Advanced administration

31%

Soil and water management

14%

Plant protection

7%

Agricultural extension

5%

Other subjects

4%

Agricultural economics

3%

Seed technology

3%

Source: Research study paper by Khin Mar Cho and Hermann Boland (2004)

Table 4: Overseas training received by extension agents of Myanmar during the period 1995-2000

Countries in Which Training Received

Duration of Training (days)

Number of Trainees

Areas of Training

Mexico

120

1

Wheat production technology

Thailand

20

1

Sustainable agriculture & rural development

Thailand

40

1

Rice production technology

Korea

40

1

Rice production technology

Japan

40

1

Flower wheat cultivation & processing

Nepal

5

1

Agriculture development in mountain regions

Thailand

35

1

Post-harvest technology

China

20

1

Hybrid rice production technology

Japan

40

1

Integrated agriculture & rural development through participation of local farmers

Source: Research study paper by Khin Mar Cho and Hermann Boland (2004)

The study also revealed further specific training needs in ten technical subjects as expressed by the extension agents in the following order of priority:

  1. Extension education
  2. Rice production technology
  3. Market information advice
  4. Pure seed production
  5. Post-harvest technology
  6. Pulses and oil seeds crop production technology
  7. Cropping system
  8. Industrial crop production
  9. Plant protection technology
  10. Farm mechanization

ICT

Info-mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension

Myanmar started installing ICT tools/applications more than ten years ago. Presently, there are over 250 ICT companies in the country. The ICT coverage for some of Myanmar’s rural areas was initiated by the Post and Telecommunications Department (PTD), which is organizationally under the Myanmar Post and Communication (MPT). A multi-purpose community tele-center was set up at Phaunggyi village which is located about 48 miles from Yangon. The center is assisted by the Telecommunication Development Bureau (TDB), and its purpose is to improve living standard of people living in rural areas. The government plans to install about 6,000 small satellite terminals at remote areas within three years or so.

According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Myanmar was 1.23. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 0.22.

There has been talk of establishing an e-agriculture information center in Myanmar to efficiently publish and share essential information for agriculture business. The center will serve as the main source of agricultural product distribution information. Also, a website will be launched for information sharing.

According to the extension management, publications are available on-line, around 60 to 65 television programs are telecast per month, and about16 radio programs are broadcast per month. In addition a huge number of information bulletins and fact sheets are also distributed among farmers. Other than that, there is no evidence of any significant modern ITC application in support of extension programs being used.

Resources

Resources and References

Aung, U.Y.M. (2011). Private Sector’s Perspectives on Myanmar Rice Industry: Addressing Potentials and Opportunities, Challenges and Risks (pdf PowerPoint presentation at the Third Development Partnership Forum, June 27, 2011 at Nay Pyi Taw).

Cho, K.M. (2002). Agricultural extension in Myanmar. BeraterInnen News; Pp. 45-48

Cho, K. M. and H. Boland (2004). Agricultural training in Myanmar: Extension agents’ perceptions of training needs. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, Vol. 11, Number 1, Pp. 5-15

Cho, K. M. and H. Boland (2005). Extension strategies for sustainable agricultural development in Myanmar. Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of AIAEE at San Antonio, TX, USA

FAO (2010). Survey on Extension; Investment Assessment Project

Han, S.T. (no date). ICT Development in Myanmar. (Pdf PowerPoint presentation).  Department of Communications and Integrated Systems, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Saha, S.R. (2011). Working Through Ambiguity: International NGOs in Myanmar. The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard University

Thein, U.B. (2010). Country Report (Myanmar); Investment Assessment Project. FAO, Rome

UNDP and FAO (August 2003 to January 2004). Myanmar: Agricultural Sector Review and Investment Strategy (two volumes). Available at website www.mm.undp.org/UNDP

World Concern (2007). National Symposium on Farmer-Led Agricultural Extension Approaches in Myanmar (held 28-30 March, 2007); Summaries of papers

 

Acknowledgements

  • Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (July 2012)
  • Edited by Burt E. Swanson

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