Running dry: A window into the Dry Zone of Myanmar

By Yusuke Taishi, Regional Technical Specialist, Global Environmental Finance Unit, UNDP.

Closing your eyes, you can picture the landscape a thousand years ago — the canals that once extended as far as the eye can see, the abundant water, the lush tropical forests that supported the rise of the ancient kingdom of Pagan between the 11th and 13th century. The contrast to now is stark. The undulating plains of modern-day central Myanmar has little reminiscent of the agricultural abundance of old.” Yusuke Taishi

Around Southeast Asia, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasing apparent. Mean temperatures are increasing. Sea levels are rising. Monsoon rains are no longer arriving like clockwork. Rainfall is either too much or not enough.

Ancient landscapes are transformed and transforming.

Close to the land, rural communities are attuned to the changes. Yet they are often not equipped to adapt. As a consequence, already poor farmers across the region are struggling to make ends meet. Climate change is expected to exacerbate families’ hardship.

To build the resilience of people living in what is now known as the “Dry Zone”, the Myanmar Government– with support from the Adaptation Fund and the UN Development Programme — is carrying out a programme of action to provide vulnerable farmers with the resources, knowledge and tools they need to support good harvests, despite changing weather patterns.

In pictures, a view into life in the Dry Zone, including the challenges communities face — and some of the solutions.

*Photos by Yusuke Taishi, Tw: @yusuketaishi, except where otherwise cited.

With support from UNDP and the Adaptation Fund, the Government of Myanmar is improving communities’ access to freshwater, strengthening agricultural practices, diversifying income sources, and actively involving communities in long term solutions.

Three years into the programme, communities in the Dry Zone are seeing the benefits.

Water capture and storage capacity has been enhanced, benefiting nearly 30,000 households in the region.

Seventy-five community ponds have been expanded and are now able to store a larger volume of rain water to last through the dry season each year.

Forty-five diversion canals have been constructed, some with sluice gates and spillways to better manage the flow of the water.

Over 4,000 hectares of ‘micro-watersheds’ have been protected and rehabilitated with the leadership of farmers, increasing natural water retention and reducing erosion.

Drought-resilient farming methods, including mixed cropping, use of drought-resilient seeds, drip irrigation, post-harvest storage, and seed multiplication have been introduced to approximately 6,000 subsistence farmers.

3,200 landless and marginal farmers have benefited from the livestock banking system — and the benefits are expected to expand.

A mobile-based application has been developed to disseminate climate information and agro-advisories to farmers through agricultural support workers in the project townships.

Climate risk and vulnerability analysis has been conducted in the project townships.

The work of the programme continues.

The project ‘Addressing Climate Change Risks on Water Resources and Food Security in the Dry Zone of Myanmar’ (2015–2019) is led by the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation with technical support from UNDP and financing by the Adaptation Fund. For more information, please contact Yusuke Taishi, UNDP Regional Technical Advisor

For updates on UNDP-supported work in Myanmar, follow @UNDP_Myanmar

For updates on UNDP-supported work in climate change adaptation worldwide, follow @UNDPClimate

February 2018.

UNDP in Asia and the Pacific

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Working for a Sustainable Planet without Poverty