A new rural learning centre will be established this year by UnionAID and our local partner, Min Lwin, on land bought in Bago by the AFFM, one of the farmer’s unions. This will be the base for a range of educational activities for local people struggling to make a living off the land. The focus will be on farmers who will be taught best practice in crop cultivation and animal husbandry; and unemployed young people will gain vocational skills such as making brooms, jam, and dried fruit snacks.
Most farmers in this region work on small holdings growing rice with a heavy reliance on expensive chemicals. This way of life is fraught with challenges such as regular flooding and pest infestation, which often drives younger family members across the border to Thailand for work to supplement the household income.
As soon as it became legal in Myanmar to establish unions in 2012, farmers were quick to see the benefits of collective activity and sign up. Today they are the occupation with the largest number of township level unions. Training in labour rights, land rights and related issues will be a strong component of the training.
UnionAID will fund the building of classrooms, dormitories, and an office (using an inexpensive rammed earth technique), and the first year of training courses. It is expected that 150 local farmers will attend the first courses, and thirty youth – mainly women – will gain vocational skills. Baseline data will capture household incomes, debt and savings, and these indicators will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the project in improving the participants’ lives.
In future years new types of training and skills will be introduced and the knowledge gained from the AFFM’s neighbouring agricultural research facility will be added to the training courses. A short video about the AFFM can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/109686933