Reducing poverty and building resilience to climate change in Myanmar’s Dry Zone
03 Mar 2015 by Yusuke Taishi, Regional Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation
In the undulating plains of the Dry Zone of central Myanmar, the Kingdom of Pagan flourished between the 11th and 13th century, largely thanks to productive agriculture supported by skilled water management techniques. Today, if it were not for the hundreds of pagodas that still remain standing, it would be hard to believe that a Kingdom once prospered here. There is little trace of the rich and fertile agricultural land, extensive canals, and abundant water that once existed in the heart of this now Dry Zone.
When I arrived in the village of Taung Shae in the Dry Zone, the popping noise of a diesel pump was reverberating in the air. A water-less community pond, in disrepair with a cracked bottom, illustrates the importance of water infrastructure for this community. But a villager proudly tells me that their tube well is 250 metres deep and now water is available throughout the year. He says he collects 300 Myanmar Kyat (about US$0.30) per 200 litres from villagers to maintain the pump.
In the village of Sin Loo Ey, villagers were busy with shelling peanuts. They tell me that the harvest is not as good as they hoped this year, but not bad enough for them to have to rely on the sales of palm sugar and their livestock.
Hundreds of thousands of Dry Zone residents are not as fortunate as those of Taung Shae and Sin Loo Ey. Many do not have a diesel water pump. Nor do they have alternative income sources to fall back on when the rain is not enough. Climate change is projected to cause more frequent and/or severe droughts, disrupt access to freshwater during the dry season, and make the livelihood in the Dry Zone an even more challenging undertaking.
The Government of Myanmar recently launched one of its first climate change adaptation projects. The project is financed by the Adaptation Fund and UNDP and will run for four years in five townships in the Dry Zone. The Government has an ambitious target of supporting nearly 250,000 people in the area with water management infrastructure, improved watershed management, and resilient livelihood options.
Some of the key initiatives are to:
- Enhance water capture and storage in 280 villages while protecting and rehabilitating 4,200 hectares of micro-watersheds
- Promote drought-resilient crop varieties and conservation agriculture practices on 5,600 hectares of drought-prone land and support a resilient post-harvest processing system
- Support 6,300 landless households in developing a climate-resilient livestock production system
Supporting the Government and its citizens in building a livelihood system resilient to the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable parts of the country, also directly contributes to UNDP’s mandate of poverty reduction.