In Myanmar, One Pig is Worth 140 Ducks
Lei Lei takes loans to get her family out of debt.
Lei Lei is a village representative, loving wife and mother of two. Every morning, she wakes up to the sound of her ducks snuggled together, quietly quacking in the shed outside her home in Hmaw Bi village. She sets them free and follows them on a small wooden boat as they play in the pond. She’s careful not to lose even one duck.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis was a disastrous storm that barreled through Myanmar, leaving many farms in a heap of debris. The land became difficult to till. Homes were destroyed. Lei Lei lost a daughter — and was forced to sell seven acres of land for cash. High interest rates trapped her family in an informal loan debt cycle.
Lei Lei’s family has survived by becoming duck farmers. In 2015, she tried out Proximity’s duck microloan program. In just a few months, Lei Lei successfully paid off her informal loans. Since 2014, Proximity Finance has supported over 14,000 loans to duck farmers in Myanmar.
They received a 200 USD loan to purchase more ducks and quality feed — this small injection of cash was enough to stabilize their income. Lei Lei’s husband purchased a boat to start his own transportation business, which afforded their two children’s school fees. Lei Lei slept better knowing her family was happy and healthy.
Lei Lei nurtures her ducks like her own children. Egg production rates vary depending on the food they eat, so it is important to feed them quality food in order to produce more duck eggs.
But finding good feed can be difficult in July when she needs it most, because there are thousands of duck farmers in the Delta region. Plus, rainy season is peak time for rice farmers, so duck farmers have limited land for their flocks to graze. Egg production can drop to one or two eggs a day for every ten ducks.
Lei Lei’s loan renewed in December 2016. She purchased 180 ducklings, which can be kept for eggs or sold again. By July, she had sold 140 of them.
“The rainy season is a difficult time to raise ducks. There’s no room for the ducks to roam, so they lay fewer eggs,” she said.
“But I kept 40 of them. I can’t live without ducks, they are part of my family!”
While other farmers sell all their ducks at the beginning of rainy season, Lei Lei realized that raising ducks throughout the year stabilizes her income, especially important during unpredictable weather patterns. During the summer, she earns 150 USD a month from the duck eggs, and about 70 USD a month in the rainy season with the smaller flock.
She sold the 140 ducks to invest in a young pig. Raising pigs is an easy income generator, with a return on investment that is four times the original price. With one pig instead of 140 ducks, Lei Lei has more time to tend to her children and farm.
“If a bank or formal savings institution opens in my village, I would happily open an account,” Lei Lei said. For now, the pig is an ideal savings vehicle.
Her nine-month loans with Proximity Finance helps maintain a steady income so she can invest in opportunities as they come. She is glad she can pay her entire loan at the end of the term, instead of recurring payments that disrupt her cash flow.
Lei Lei renewed her livestock loan again in 2017 and even took a crop loan of 250 USD in June. She is determined to buy back the seven acres of farm that she sold after Cyclone Nargis. Like countless other ambitious, resilient female farmers, Lei Lei will lead Myanmar in a positive direction.
Proximity Designs is an award-winning, farmer-focused social enterprise based in Yangon, Myanmar. Learn more at http://www.proximitydesigns.org