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Myanmar’s agricultural sector has huge potential for growth

Date: 22/09/2010
Source: UNIC Yangon
Myanmar’s agricultural sector has huge potential for growth

Yangon, 27 January - The agricultural sector in Myanmar has considerable growth potential and should be prioritized in programmatic responses to the current economic challenges within Myanmar. This view emerged at the Myanmar Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting, a monthly meeting attended by donors, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other members of the humanitarian community in Myanmar.
“Economic growth and poverty alleviation will depend on improvements in productivity and growth of agricultural crops, fisheries and livestock. Over 70 percent of the population live in rural areas, and all indicators suggest that the agricultural sector has considerable growth potential,” said Shafique Rahman, Policy Advisor for UNDP, in a presentation on behalf of the UN/INGO Working Group on Food Security on the topic Economic Overview - Challenges, Opportunities and Programmatic Reponses.
”At the same time, with high landlessness in the rural area, the landless poor must depend on non-farm economic activities. In essence, what is needed is a scaled-up and holistic support to the agrarian rural economy,” said Mr. Rahman.
The meeting, attended by over 70 experts, heads of missions and agencies, diplomats and aid workers, highlighted a number of challenges that would need to be addressed within areas like rural credit, market access, non-agricultural economy and infrastructure. Its focus on economic policy and programmatic responses was inspired by recent events, including the visit in December by Professor Joseph Stiglitz.
A concern brought forward was an evident gap in funding for microfinance projects. Estimates suggested that demand for microfinance is in the range of US$340 million to US$470 million. The seven international organizations and a few local organizations and banks providing microfinance are meeting a mere 10% of the potential demand, forcing millions of rural poor to resort to high cost loans from money lenders resulting in increased indebtedness.
The largest microfinance project in Myanmar is run by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project, introduced in 1997, is operational in 4,645 villages in 22 townships, assisting 350,000 households across the country. The project offers assistance to farmers and families with less than five acres of land and provides them with the means to invest and expand.
“There is a huge demand which we are unable to meet with the current level of funding available,” said Fahmid Karim Bhuiya, Country Representative for PACT Myanmar, who is implementing UNDP’s microfinance project in 22 townships.
According to the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Myanmar, Bishow Parajuli, microfinance projects and other innovative community-based interventions are still at an early stage in Myanmar.
“But organizations and agencies working within this field has successfully demonstrated that microfinance can be an effective tool for poverty reduction and rural development,” said Mr. Parajuli, who also noted that there is a huge potential to do more to stimulate the overall rural economy.
“Challenges can be overcome, and opportunities clearly exist in terms of providing a much-needed response to the needs of the rural poor and at the same time support to the longer-term economic recovery efforts,” said Mr. Parajuli.

For more information, please contact:

Esben Q. Harboe
Special Assistant to the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator
Tel: +951 542 910/919 - ext 430
Mob: +95 (0)9507 4853

Topic: Investments
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