Raising Ducks, Rain or Shine
U Fpa Lan Sit didn’t have the best year in 2016.
The heavier than usual rainfall last summer flooded some areas along the Ayeyawardy River. It also ruined U Fpa’s pulses. U Fpa’s family, like most others in his village — Dalin in the Mawgyun Township — alternates planting pulses and paddy each year to replenish the nutrients in the soil and get better financial gains.
What’s usually a common and effective practice didn’t work out well for U Fpa. As the wet summer months came to an end, and preparation for monsoon paddy began, U Fpa and his wife found themselves having nothing to harvest, and in turn, having no money to start planting.
After going around neighbors and getting informal loans with high interest rate, U Fpa managed to plant paddies in some parts of his 4-acre field, but only to encounter another financial hit several months later. Their paddies grew well, but at the end of the monsoon season, they found paddy prices lower than expected, yielding less income than what’s needed to sustain the family and the farming business.
U Fpa, 58, has been in and around farms his entire life. Unlike what one may guess, the ups and downs that are inherent in agricultural practices had not worn him out. Instead, it not only gave him the strength to deal with the volatility of the business, but also trained him to be optimistic and hopeful in the face of unforeseeable obstacles:
“You can’t stop (farming). You have to keep on trying,” U Fpa said, with a smile on his face visible as always.
And he’s right. Although both of U Fpa’s sons have grown up and are living with their own families down the street, U Fpa has many more mouths to feed — 150, to be exact. His 150 ducks, young and old, quacked in the backyard as U Fpa talked to us. These ducks, in the time of bad weather and poor crop gain, can lay eggs and bring some much-needed income to the family.
A decade ago, U Fpa purchased his first batch of a dozen or so ducklings. Both his affection for his ducks and the size of his operation have grown steadily ever since. While talking to us, U Fpa noticed it was feeding hour and was quick to attend to the flock. When he offered to show us around the backyard, he proudly introduced the various breeds and ages of ducks — it was easy to spot the farmer’s pride in his work.
It’s not always easy business, as U Fpa states without much dismay. Ducks need constant feeding and grooming. Although things are generally getting better, sickness happens sometimes, too and often results in losses. But instead of focusing on what’s difficult, U Fpa chooses to focus on the animals — the very things that bring him joy. Raising livestock is a common way for Myanmar farmers to save the little money they have left after household and farm expenses. If the ducks are well taken care of, the initial investment is able to create long-term, steady return for the farmers.
Having raised ducks for almost ten years now, U Fpa prides himself as an early starter, certainly a local pioneer in raising livestock. With more frequent extreme weathers and crop diseases, it left him little choice but to take out loans to take care of the ducks. The livestock loans he received in monsoon 2016 had much lower interest rate than the informal loans he got from neighborhood lenders, and made it more financially viable to create income through continuous hard work, rain or shine.
Proximity Designs is an award-winning, farmer-focused social enterprise based in Yangon, Myanmar. http://proximitydesigns.org