Su Mon speaks about her experiences managing a rural sales force in Myanmar Last Thursday, the development media platform Devex…
Who's buying our products?
Pour yourself a cup of sweet tea and get to know some of the people we've been working for.
Daw Than Nu
Seikyi Village, Kungyangon
Daw Than Nu, a mother of three in Seikyi village in Kungyangon village tract told us “This time last year you wouldn’t even be able to visit, it would have taken you two hours by boat from Kungyangon” , of a journey which took us less that 15 minutes by motorbike on the new footpath. Kungyangon is where the nearest high school and medical center are, and also where the teachers for the village primary school commute from each day.
“In the monsoon, the children would stop going to school because the journey was too long. Last year the primary school teachers also said that they would stop coming here unless we fixed the road. Now we have a good road they are happy to come.” This limited access to education meant that there are no high school graduates in Seikyi village, but this is set to change now that access is improved. “It feels amazing,” Daw Than Nu goes on, “I have better hopes for my children’s future. I can dream for them now”.
Daw Kyi Aung
68 year old Daw Kyi Aung's husband is 90 years old, and her daughter is mentally handicapped. She is the sole provider for her family but makes less than $1.50 USD in the rainy season when work opportunities are scarce. When the cash for work footpath construction opportunity was announced, she had racked up a big debt at the grocery store. She told us she wished for her own death at points because life was so hard.
In the construction project, as she is too frail to dig or carry heavy loads herself, she took on the role of providing drinking water to the labourers. In 18 days she earned about 27,000 kyat ($32) which she used to pay off her debt, buy rice for immediate consumption and a little for storage, and make some donations. She saved 5,000 kyat for the future, and feels more confident about being able to feed her family in the next few months.
Ko Thar Htoo
Ko Thar Htoo was born without hands. Yet, when asked what the biggest hinderance to his success as a farmer was, his answer was: water shortages in summer months. For six months of every year it was near impossible for him to get enough water to irrigate the crops that he sells commercially.
In 2011 he bought his first Yetagon treadle pump from Proximity Designs. Now, he is able to work his farm year-round, by himself; treading to get water, and watering using a sprinkler hose held between his wrists. At the end of his first season, he made 250,000 kyats from his vegetable sales. An amount, and a story, that has inspired many other farmers in his area to turn their domestic plots into year-round money making ventures with a Yetagon pump.
U Khin Maung Than
Aye Ywar, Bogalay
U Khin Maung Than is a rice farmer, growing on 15 acres of land in the Delta village of Aye Ywar. In 2011, 7 of these acres became infested with armyworms, a pest that destroys crops at alarming speeds. In a village as remote as Aye Ywar, pesticides are hard to come by, and the traditional alternative is to burn all of the paddy and wait for the soil to recover before trying again the next season. The crops go to waste, as does the money spent on planting, and the family struggle to get by on an income that’s just half of what they had anticipated.
Fortunately, U Khin Maung Than called Proximity’s Farm Advisory Services before he resorted to this. The team used a simple, inexpensive method of flooding the land to kill them through drowning, rather than using chemicals. This technique saved U Khin Maung Than a total of 750,000 kyat ($920 USD), an amount that would have driven him into crippling debt.
Daw Tin Tin Mya
Imagine giving birth to your first child in pitch darkness, or just by the light of a candle flickering in and out in the breeze. Thankfully, for expectant mothers in Shwebo Su village, this will no longer be their reality.
Midwife and nurse, Daw Tin Tin Mya, purchased an S250 in early June, and has since successfully delivered three babies by the light of it. She has also been able to visit sick patients at night much easier recently and they are comforted by the strong light she brings with her.
U Kyaw Swe
Pakkoku Kyun V, Magwe
U Kyaw Swe is a 45 year old landless farmer and father of three. Farmers in his village have a rotational cropping season on a lottery system. Based on his luck he is designated a plot to farm for a single season. When Proximity took Yetagon irrigation technology to his village, U Kyaw Swe was the first customer. With the pump, which he bought with a Proximity product loan, he is able to farm the land next to his house; something which wasn't possible before because there was no water access. This means that he isn't reliant on the lottery system to grow crops, and in his first year with the pump he boosted his income at least 25%.
His season was so successful that other farmers became interested and U Kyaw Swe has become the village installation agent, earning a commission for each installation. He has encouraged 26 other landless farmers to also buy a pump, and they too are now benefitting from additional incomes generated by growing on land that they considered previously barren.
U Win Shwe
Poe Kha Mi Taung village, Mawlamyaingyun
For over 21 years, U Win Shwe, like many farmers in his village tract, had been unable to grow profitable monsoon paddy on his 4.5 acre plot, but didn't know why. He and his neighbors were reliant mostly on their summer paddies for income but this was rarely enough for the year and many families were in debt to high interest loans. U Win Swe's debt was so severe that he even tried to trade his fields but nobody would take the "cursed land".
In 2009, U Win Swe heard about Proximity's FAS team and called on them to help him. Immediately, it was obvious to the team that his fields had a serious case of Ufra disease which had spread across the entire village's farmland. After some technical training and water managment, a year later, U Win Shwe was getting 250+ baskets from the fields that would, before, only produce 15.
U Hla Shein
Shwe Daun Zu Village, Hae Ein Kyaung Village Tract
In the first week that U Hla Shein had his d.light, he took it fishing and managed to drop it from his boat into the river. To his great surprise the light still worked, so he continued fishing, confident in his new investment. The next day he took it down to the local teashop and put it in a bucket of water to show all of his friends it's durability. They were very impressed and 9 out of 10 of them then bought their own!
Prior to having the solar light, U Hla Shein, like many of his friends, was mostly using kerosene for lighting. This was costing him about $5 a month and he was continuously worried about fires and oil spills, especially after his nephew suffered severe burns a few years ago. He plans to buy three more d.lights in the coming year, one more for fishing, one for his wife to cook by, and one for his children to study with.
Daw Htwe Kyi
Daw Htwe Kyi and her husband, U Tin Oo, were facing daily food security problems before the pond work started. They were at the point of selling the last three chickens of their livestock “bank” to pay for rice when they heard about the two-week-long project in their village, Ma Kyee Kan, in Pakokku township. All six members of their family contributed, and collectively they made about 140,000 kyat, enough to not only keep their chickens, but also to add two piglets to their livestock “bank”, providing them greater security for future months.
Daw Tin Win
Daw Tin Win is a 60 year old landless woman from Nha Khoun Pout village in the Ayeyarwady Delta. During the footpath construction project in her village, in addition to digging reglarly, she also picked coconuts and made juice for the workers everyday, and installed and managed a big water tank to ensure that the workers remained hydrated. When asked why she was making these additional donations to the project she replied, "I moved to this village when I was four years old and have never been able to walk around it easily during the rainy season. With this footpath I will be able to visit family and friends, and my children will be able to go to school too. They were considering dropping out becase of the difficult access, but now they can get there happily. What a luxury! I feel spoilt!"
U Sein Khine
Back in 2008, U Seine Khine, was growing on 0.7 acres of land. In the 9 dry months of the year, he was spending eight or nine hours a day in the field, mostly spent lugging water in sprinkler cans. A typical day would see him carrying up to 6 tons to irrigate his small plot. Yet, despite his best efforts, U Sein Khine’s successes were small, and in a typical year he would pocket just $200, three quarters of which would be spent on food for his family.
He was exhausted. In 2008, he invested $20 USD in a foot powered water pump from a Yetagon agent visiting his village. Within two weeks of using it he had made back the $20 and, within a year, he had doubled his annual net income. Each season, his profits increased and, each season, he invested in another Yetagon product, or bought more land. Four seasons on, he now sits comfortably on 2 acres of paddy field that provide him two harvests a year, and on which he can grow more lucrative vegetables and flowers between rice growing seasons. A television aerial sticks out of his roof and he has recently invested in a motorbike to take his kids to school. When considering how things have changed for him since 2008 he lists many things, but “Most importantly,” he ends with, “I’m 67 years old, and I can finally start enjoying my life”.
U Tin Hla
Aung Thu Kha Village, Aye Mya Thar Yar Myot Thit
Before U Tin Hla bought his first pump, he used a mount tat (a traditional, labour intensive, pulley system). To get enough water to irrigate his land he, and his three family members, would take around 100 trips to the well each day, and just getting the water out of the ground would take him from 6am until around 1pm. With his Yetagon pump he begins treadling at 6am and is done by 8am giving him more time to spend on other tasks.
With the income he has gained he has bought another acre of land, and with the improved water access he is able to grow profitable crops even in the dry season. This has tripled his income and he is now thinking about investing in better technology farming machines to help him out, not motorized pumps though; he says, "I don't even want the engine pumps anymore, the Proximity ones are much more efficient"
Sayadaw U Kaw Tha La
The Kaw Gyi, Nay Pyi Taw
Head monk, Sayadaw U Kaw Tha La started growing and selling betel to raise funds for a new meditation hall for his monastery three years ago. He anticipates the final cost to be around $900 USD and he has already collected about 80% thanks to the Yetagon drip irrigation sets he has installed on his land. He has found that, since installing the technology, he no longer has to worry about keeping the plants alive and high quality, as drip does that for him.
Aung Myint Sein
Aung Myint Sein replaced his diesel pump with his first foot pump in 2010. Rather than spending money on fuel, he now just treadles his pump for an hour and a half each day, waving at his neighbours who pass him on the road, and enjoying the exercise. Last season he made $1,200 and extended his land to 1.5 acres, investing in two new pumps to help him irrigate it. Even with these investments he made enough to also ordain his son, a huge honor for his family.
Ko Kyaw Kyaw Sein
Like farming, dating is very time consuming. Eligible young farmers, like 24 year old Ko Kyaw Kyaw Sein from Kyaukse, are spending hours pumping and lugging water in sprinkler cans every day, leaving them minimal free time to be out chasing girls.
Enter Proximity's drip irrigation system. Ko Kyaw installed it on his betel plot a few weeks ago and it's already saving him about 3 hours a day of labour.
"Now I’ve got some free time", he tells us, "I’m going to use it to woo the girls. There's a girl I quite like already but I've always been too busy with the farm to spend time with her. Now I can!"
U Tin Oo
U Tin Oo, a betel farmers, has two Red Rhino pumps. He bought his first 6 years ago, and his second last year. He is impressed that his pump continues to work well after six years, and only two servicings. Although he was younger before he bought the pump, he tells us that he felt old. Now, although he is older, he feels younger and he attributes this to the pump.