Myanmar, the largest country in South-East Asia, has rich endowments of land and water and a favourable climate for agriculture. Its geographic location at the intersection of China and India, two of the world’s most dynamic economies, makes it well positioned to resume its traditional role as a regional trading hub and a key supplier of minerals, natural gas and agricultural produce after 50 years of isolation.
As it emerges from this period, Myanmar has embarked on a comprehensive path of political and economic reforms. It aims to introduce elements of popular representation into the political sphere, foster economic growth and inclusive social development, improve the business environment, attract foreign investment and reduce poverty.
The reforms are already yielding growth dividends, as Myanmar has become one of the most dynamic economies of Asia. Notwithstanding its immense potential for growth, Myanmar is still one of the poorest countries in the region, ranked 148th among 188 nations globally in the 2015 Human Development Report.
Poverty is mostly concentrated in rural areas, where a majority of the rural population engages in smallholder agriculture and casual employment. The agriculture sector is the backbone of the economy, and two thirds of the population lives in rural areas.
Paradoxically for such a resource-rich country, there is a stark rural-urban divide. Rural areas lag significantly behind urban areas in social and productive infrastructure. Poverty levels are significantly higher in rural areas and among smallholders, landless people and ethnic minority groups.
While the country produces a surplus of food, many rural areas suffer from food insecurity. These disparities exist among and within states and within villages, where household hunger and poverty are closely linked.
Rural poor people lack adequate and nutritious food and essential non-food items. Many of the poorest live in the central dry zone or in hill tracts populated by ethnic minority groups. These remote areas have limited arable land and have been affected by conflict.
Due to its past isolation, Myanmar's agriculture sector has not benefited fully from global advances in agricultural technology and methods.
IFAD's strategy in the country is to focus on modernizing agriculture, upgrading value chains, fostering links among agribusinesses, diversifying livelihoods, promoting rural enterprises and generating employment off the farm.
Key activities include:
- helping rural people gain access to agricultural resources, technologies, services and markets;
- creating business and employment opportunities for rural women and men;
- promoting the social and economic empowerment of marginalized populations, especially ethnic minority groups.
IFAD also serves as a development catalyst in Myanmar. We work with the government to leverage resources from bilateral and multilateral partners for co-financing investments and, eventually, scaling up successful activities.
Results-based country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP):
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In Myanmar, agriculture employs 70 per cent of the labour force but contributes just 36 per cent of GDP.
Since 2014, IFAD has committed US$48.6 million to finance 2 projects related to agricultural development, benefiting over 100,000 households.