“My three sons are students and I’m worrying how can I support them to keep study this year. And because of I lost big amount of money in last season, I need to reduce farming size.”- Maung Kham, 42 year-old farmer from Bayar Ngar Sue village.
The rainy season has just started in Myanmar, and the next harvest is more than two months away for most of Shanta Foundation’s partner villages. More than 90% of households we work with are living in poverty. The uncertainty created by COVID-19 has left these vulnerable households unsure of how – or whether – they would make it through. The hardest hit are those like Maung Kham whose unexpected losses during early COVID restrictions are now impacting their ability or confidence to invest for the coming growing season. They’re still not out of the woods, but hard work and collaboration among villagers has made the immediate economic impact of COVID-19 manageable for even the poorest households. We can’t take credit for how they use it, but we’re confident Shanta’s program model has prepared our partner villages to work through these challenges together more effectively.
Our model empowers communities to organize themselves and mobilize resources for their own development.
In Aung Lei, 26 year-old father, Khun Gyi, usually makes a decent dry season income making fireworks for festivals. With festivals cancelled just after he made this year’s batch, he needs to borrow to plant for the rainy season crop instead of using the profits from fireworks as he usually does. The repayment of those loans at harvest time will make it a lean year for his young family.
Government efforts to support economic resilience are finally taking shape. As a part of our village empowerment work, we build relationships between village leaders and local government officials who, in most cases, had not met before. As a result, when the proposed economic assistance programs begin, Shanta villages will know what is available and can be “first in line” to apply for the grants. Over the next few months leading up to the harvest, Shanta will continue to implement regular and COVID-19 specific programming to ensure continued resilience of our partners.
We will be monitoring the economic situation in each village and have resources on standby to respond, if necessary, to sudden shocks beyond the capacity of a village to cope with on their own.
-Dan Osnato, Shanta Program Manager