The arrival of the monsoon is a cause for great celebration in agricultural communities, such as the villages I am visiting this week in Myanmar. After the rains arrived later than expected, there are now unsettling reports that they may not be as regular or as plentiful as in previous years. This has become an annual dilemma, increasing in severity each year, and our partner, the Church of the Province of Myanmar, is addressing many of these concerns with terrific results.
In 2008, the Church, with help from Episcopal Relief & Development, established a residential demonstration training farm on appropriate cost-effective methods to increase productivity in the agricultural sector. Farmers from across the country are learning Effective Microorganisms technology – an environmentally friendly, low-cost method of farming that allows for the production of crops without damage to the ecosystem. The training is over a period of three weeks, with a combination of theory and practice. Additional follow-up support is provided when the participants apply their new skills at their home farms.
I am not a farmer, nor a soil scientist, but what I witness is optimism among the farmers, and significant positive impact from those who trained in previous years. Participants have had measurable increases in their yields following two seasons of using the technology. The Church couples this training with provision of storage facilities that allow some of the harvest to be sold during the dry seasons, when prices are higher and farmers can earn more. And to further complement the training, the Church also provides the resources for inter-monsoonal crops, so that soil nutrients are replenished while a greater variety of food sources are cultivated.
Our church partners in Myanmar are enabling farmers to overcome the challenges of unpredictable weather patterns, increasing traditional costs, and income fluctuations. It’s one of the many miracles I keep seeing here.