Myanmar is truly an amazing country. For many years, this Asian country has been shunned by the world for complex political reasons – but recent political reform has changed that. Myanmar, formally Burma, is opening up – and its people for whom recent years have been filled with oppression are looking forward to grasping new opportunities to build better lives.
Traidcraft is about to do a world first. We are currently working with two rural communities in western Myanmar to export the country’s first ever Fairtrade product - rice. Believe it or not, in the mid- 1900s Burma was the world’s largest exporter of rice, but the dictatorship and international sanctions stopped that. Now though, as the country begins to transform itself, exports are picking up – and Traidcraft is part of that.
My recent trip to Myanmar took me and my colleague Zenen to the two communities we are working extremely closely with – Lin Win Gyi and Moe Goke. Both are about a five-hour bus ride from Yangon and are extremely rural. The people are exceptionally poor, doing everything possible to support their families. What is striking here are the number of young people – across Myanmar, almost a third of people are under 24 years old! It’s an incredible statistic and this younger generation represents the country’s exciting future.
Working on the ground, we are helping farmers in these two communities to work as groups, sharing knowledge to realise the best market prices for their paddy. In one of the villages, we are assisting with the modernisation of a rice mill that dates back to the colonial days. We’re building a storage facility which will allow them to hold back some of their crop to realise more money when market prices are high.
Crucially, we are working to ensure their rice conforms to Fairtrade standards – that proper fertilisers are used, child labour is not acceptable, and men and women are paid the same.
To find out more about our exciting work in Myanmar, please watch our latest video...