By Haymar Hein

General information of Myanmar
Myanmar, officially named as "The Government of the Union of Myanmar", is located in South-East Asia and shares borders with China along the north and north-east, Lao People's Democratic Republic along the east and by Thailand along the south-east. The Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal are located at the south; and India and Bangladesh are at the west border.

The country covers an area of 677,000 square kilometres (261,228 square miles) ranging 936 km (581 miles) from east to west and 2,051 km (1,275 miles) from north to south.

The weather of Myanmar consists of three seasons; the monsoon or rainy season from May to October; the cool season from November to February and the hot season from March to May. The average temperature ranges from 320C in central and lower areas to 210C in the northern highlands. Average annual rainfall varies from about 5,000 mm (about 200 in) on the Taninthari Coast to about 760 mm (about 30 in) at Mandalay.

Objective
The main objective of this study is to examine the socio-economic status of farmers and crop production in the target area - Kone Taung village tract.

Operating procedure
The nine member survey team from the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation conducted survey activities and carried out intensive studies on socio-economic life of the rural people in Kone Taung village tract, Tharzi township in Meikhtila district, Mandalay division, Myanmar.

The team interviewed 48 farmers and 21 landless people on their socio-economic aspects, current economic status of the village, and crop production of the area.

General information of Kone Taung village tract
Profile of the study area
Kone Taung village tract is located in the central dry zone of Myanmar, Mandalay division. It is one of the model village tracts located in Thazi township of Meikhtila district. It has three villages, namely Myauk (north), Taung (south) and Ahnauk (west) Kone Taung village. Average rainfall in Meikhtila is 30.91 inches (61 days); average maximum temperature is 340C and minimum 220C; mean relative humidity is 70 per cent (Myanma Agriculture Service, 2008).

Demographics characteristics of study area
Total population and households
The total population in the Kone Taung village tract is 1,450 and total number of households is 327. In north Kone Taung, the population is 457, south Kone Taung is 397 and west Kone Taung is 139. Males comprise about 47 per cent of the total population while females comprise about 53 per cent. The average household size in Kone Taung village tract is 4.87. Majority of people living in the study area are of the Burma ethnic group.

Types of land in Kone Taung village tract
Kone Taung village tract has a total area of 2,469 acres. Out of the total cultivated area, about 2,002 acres are considered lowland (Le), about 250 acres as dry land (Yar),150 acres as homestead, 20 acres as fallow land, 20 acres are cultivable waste land and 27 acres as other.

Criteria for classification of farm land
Based on landholding size, farmers from the study area are classified into small, medium and large. The majority (88) of farmers possessed 5 to 10 acres of land (medium farm size). Moreover, 73 farm households possessed above 10 acres of land (large farm size) and only 59 farmers possessed less than 5 acres of farm land (small farm size).

Major crop production
In the study area, rice production is their major source of living, hence, paddy is the main crop. The monsoon paddy area alone comprised 1,325 acres, whilst summer paddy comprised 67 acres under irrigated conditions. Chickpea is the second most important crop in terms of sown area (400 acres) followed by sesame. Pigeon pea (118 acres) and post-monsoon cotton (58 acres) are the other important crops grown in the village tract.

Cropping patterns and calendar
There are four major cropping patterns for the whole year differentiated by low land and dry land. Monsoon paddy-summer paddy and monsoon paddy-chickpea are common cropping patterns for low land. However, pre-monsoon pigeon pea-monsoon sesame-cotton, maize-vegetables and sorghum are the major cropping patterns for upland cultivation. Crop calendar for major crops sown in Kone Taung village tract is shown in Table 1

Farm assets and livestock holdings
The majority of farmers in the study area possess bullock cart, plough, harrow and sprayer. Normally, farm households share the equipment such as tractors, plowing and harrowing machines with relatives and neighbours. However, in most cases, farmers who own power tiller and thresher provide services for other farmers in the same village or nearby villages on payment basis. Although farmers can use the machines for land preparation and threshing activities by hiring from others, the current infrastructure is insufficient to support the prospective increases in agricultural production. In addition, most farm households own bullock, chicken, goats and layers.

Types of employment
Major off-farm job opportunities in the study area are as workers in construction and factories, carpenters and masons. Moreover, some are government civil servants, such as police, and in the military.

Public facilities

  • Education - There are two primary schools in the village tract. About 10 teachers teach 206 students with the ratio of 1:21. The schools have two general workers. The village tract has four monasteries.
  • Health - Kone Taung village tract has only one health clinic with only one mid-wife for treating patients.
  • Sources of water - Kone Taung village tract mainly depends on underground water and stored rain water from lakes and dams). Meiktila lake, Paepin lake and Kone Taung dam are the main sources of water for the villagers.
  • Fuel for cooking - The villagers use wood fuel for cooking, mainly from trees from the forest, farm land boundary shrubs and white-barked Acacia.
  • Source of electricity - Within the village tract, there are12 small generators. The generator from one monastery distributes electricity to about 30 households in the village tract from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm at the cost of 100 Kyats per night per household.
  • Market for villagers - Market for buying and selling is not done daily in the village tract. Rather, they buy and sell commodities once every five days.
  • Village administration system - In Kone Taung village tract, the administration office is organized with a chairperson; 7 members; 3 group leaders, 1 for each hundred households; 27 group leaders, 1 for each 10 households and a clerk.
  • Other organizations - Villagers are involved in non-governmental organizations, such as USDA (1,467), Mother and Child Development Organization (450), Women Organization (250) and Fire Brigade (25).

Survey result of sample rural households in Kone Taung village tract
Among the sample households, about 30 per cent are landless and 70 per cent are farmers. About 75 per cent, 71 per cent and 62 per cent of sample households own the land (or working as farmers) in West, South and North villages, respectively.

For overall households, 62.5 per cent own 5 to 10 acres of land. About 16.7 per cent and 20.8 per cent own small farm size (less than 5 acres) and large farm size (above 10 acres), respectively. Among the villages, West village has about 28 per cent of small farmers while North and South villages have less numbers of small farmers. Actually, about 23 per cent of farm households in South and North villages own more than 10 acres of land.

The majority of the landless in the study area is working as daily causal labourers and only one person works as a permanent farm labourer. The rest of the landless engage in the non-farm sector (as vendor, mason, government staff, etc.).

Among the sample households, 11.6 per cent of households received the monastery level of education, 36 per cent of total household heads received education to the primary level, followed by 36 per cent of middle school level and 17.4 per cent of high school level.

Among the villages, more percentage of household heads from North village attended high school level (23.8 per cent).

Overall, the mean age of household head is 49.3 years and family size is 5.5. The household heads in South village (47.9 years) are younger and have a smaller family size (5.1) than the other two villages. But average number of working family members is nearly the same in all rural households (Table 3).

About 79 per cent and 75 per cent of household heads in West and South village, respectively, participate in various voluntary non-governmental organizations, such as Union Solidarity and Development Association, Village Administration, etc. The spouses also participate in various organizations (mainly Union Solidarity and Development Association, Myanmar Maternal & Child Welfare Association, Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation, etc.). It seems that more heads and spouses in West village participate in organizations compared to other villages. On average, about 68 per cent of heads and 62 per cent of spouses joined organizations.

The largest and smallest landholdings can be found in South village (27 acres and 1 acre). The average land size of farm households in West, South and North villages is 7.9, 9.2, and 8.6 acres, respectively. Although average Le (lowland) land size was not significantly different among the villages, the West village has smallest Yar size compared to the other two villages.

In the West village, about 33 per cent, 39 per cent, and 28 per cent of farm households rely on dam, rain and underground water, respectively, for their crop cultivation (mainly rice). On the other hand, a higher percentage (53 per cent) of farm households in the South and 57 per cent of farm households in the North villages receive water from dams. Only two farmers in each West and South village cultivate the summer rice as they receive water from dam or underground water sources in summer time.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of farmers (about 82 per cent in the South and 71 per cent in the North village) rely on rain only for their crop cultivation in Yar land. But only half of the farmers in the West village rely on rain and about 33 per cent and 17 per cent of farmers receive underground water and irrigated water, respectively, for their crop cultivation. As a result, the farmers in West village have a more diversified cropping system (and reduced risk of crop failure) than the other two villages.

About 62 per cent, 67 per cent and 57 per cent of total households in West, South and North villages, respectively, have only one source of income from either the farm or non-farm sector. More households in the West village have three sources of income compared to the other two villages. Currently, about 27 per cent and 10 per cent of the total sampled households in the South and North villages, respectively, have opportunity for more income diversification.

The farm households in West village earn the highest income compared to farm income in the other two villages. The households who are working as daily causal labour in the South village earn the highest annual income while the daily labours in North village receive the lowest income. The non-farm households in the North village receive the highest income compared to the non-farm households in the other two villages.

It is obvious that the rural households still rely on the agriculture sector for their living as it provides a higher income (about 2.4 times of labour and non-farm income). And land asset is the most important resource for them. The lowest household income (250,000 Kyats/yr) was found in non-farm household in the West village. (exchange rate 1 USD = 1,000 Kyats).

Overall, the average annual per capita income is 242,204 Kyats; maximum and minimum income of 826,000 Ks and 17,500 Kyats, respectively (Table 4). The rural households in West village earn the highest per capita income while the households in North village have the lowest per capita income. The farm households in the West village own less land size than other two villages but they have more availability of water for crop cultivation. Hence availability of water for crop cultivation is crucial, especially in the dry zone area.

Monsoon rice is a major crop in Le land in this area while sesame is a major crop in Yar land. Average income (Kyats) from rainfed rice is about 7.6 lakh, 3.9 lakh from chickpea, 3.4 lakh from summer rice, 2.7 lakh from sesame, 1.9 lakh from groundnut, 1.6 lakh from green pea and 0.23 lakh from pigeon pea. Cotton production is become popular nowadays as underground water is available for cotton production. Average income from cotton is nearly 6 lakh (1 Lakh = 100,000 MMKyats).

Almost all farmers own draught cattle and farm equipment such as sprayers, hoes. Raising dairy cow is also major activity in the village tract. Most villagers prefer to raise goat as it has resistance to hot weather and shortage of feed (Table 5).

All farmers who own draught cattle have carts. Most farmers own a bicycle, motorcycle, cassette and radio, television and VCD (Table 6).

When asking the farmers' opinion for increasing household income, sampled households responded that water and credit are the first two priorities. High crop prices are second priority. Other factors include job opportunities, market information as well as land are also important .

Recommendations

  • It is recommended to set up a systematic utilization of underground water resources to resolve the most important constraints for farmers.
  • Outsourcing donor agencies, International Organizations, INGOs needs to be approached for fund raising to be used as small loans through the existing agricultural banking system to ease financial difficulties of farmers. Only half of farmers obtained credit from the government agricultural bank and the amount they obtained is not sufficient for cultivation. Therefore, it is recommended to set up a credit system for farmers.
  • Apart from the above two main factors, other factors that influence the development of rural areas are electricity, efficient logistics and transportation systems, bridges, basic village infrastructure, proper dispensary, post-primary education, upgrading of skills and knowledge in modern farming and livestock production as well as to motivate farmers to accept new ways of doing farming with latest technologies to raise their living standard.
  • Agro-forestry also plays an important role to create green environment for village tracts. Therefore, it is recommended to educate farmers to practice farming activities with environmental friendly methods.
  • The most important aspect for development as a whole is collaboration between UN organizations and other donor agencies to resolve financial constraints of the financially handicap farmers.