Proximity Designs in Myanmar
The South Asian country of Myanmar has some of the best farmland in all of Asia. Considered the breadbasket of Asia, Myanmar grows a substantial amount of crops. Unfortunately, despite boasting some of the best growing conditions, Myanmar is not as prosperous as it should be. Fortunately, the company Proximity Designs has been aiding Myanmar’s economy through farmers.

The State of Farming in Myanmar

The potential for Myanmar to boost its economy through farming is there for the taking, but there are some roadblocks to recovery. Here are some facts about farming in Myanmar:

  • Agriculture makes up almost 40 percent of Myanmar’s economy.

  • Agricultural exports make up almost 30 percent of Myanmar’s total export earnings.

  • The farming industry employs 70 percent of the country’s workforce.

  • One day of work in Myanmar produces only 23 kg of crops while neighboring countries may produce 10 times that amount.

  • During monsoon season, a farmer may make around $2 a day and during the dry season around $3 a day.

  • Farmers in neighboring countries, like Thailand, make at least $7 a day in both seasons.

Poverty in Myanmar

Given the resources, both natural and human, the productivity of Myanmar is very low. With farmers making less than $4 a day and far less than farmers in neighboring countries, they have a tough time fighting poverty. One in four people in Myanmar are poor and a large number of them live in rural areas. The number of poor people in rural areas is almost seven times higher than those living in urban areas.

The government has attempted to aid the poor with some success, but a third of the population is still at risk of falling into poverty. The people of Myanmar struggle financially because their farming industry is not productive. The lack of productivity is down to a lack of education and tools in farming.

How Proximity Designs is Helping Farmers in Myanmar

Proximity Designs is a company that aims to increase the productivity of farmers in Myanmar. Its founders are Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din and they created the organization in 2004. Based in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, the company wants to raise the poor out of poverty by helping them increase their profits. To start, the company created high-tech irrigation tools like custom irrigation systems and solar-powered pumps. Despite having such rich farmland, the people of Myanmar still rely on monsoon season to provide water for their crops. If farmers can find a better way to nourish their crops in the dry season, then they can increase productivity, which is exactly what Proximity Designs is trying to do.

Another way the company helps the poor is by providing microloans. People primarily use loans during the dry season when men move to cities to find better work. They use the money to cover the cost of transportation to the city and any living expenses for the rest of the family. Proximity Designs has used its business to reach 80 percent of Myanmar’s farming population. Its work has been aiding Myanmar’s economy for almost 15 years now and the country’s economy has been on a steady rise.

The work Proximity Designs is doing in Myanmar is very important. The government alone has not done enough for the country, but with the help of foreign entities aiding Myanmar’s economy, the agricultural sector could boom. The potential to excel is clear and the workforce is available to support the industry. It is just a matter of giving farmers the right tools and education to make smart choices and increase the number of crops that they are producing. With increased production, the economy of Myanmar should grow and raise the incomes of farmers all over the country.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr