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Promoting innovative irrigation techniques for poor family farmers in Myanmar and Cambodia

Start date End date Budget Funding
01/12/2014 31/12/2017 - Find, Fondation d’entreprise Louis Dreyfus


The context

In Myanmar and Cambodia, 70 to 80% of the population lives off agriculture. The poorest among these family farmers are not benefitting from the economic growth being experienced by these countries in recent years. GRET has been working in the Irrawaddy delta (Myanmar) and the Siem Reap region (Cambodia) since 2008, and has observed that the development of an inclusive economy based on market gardening is an opportunity for farming families in these two regions. The fresh fruit and vegetable market is booming in these two countries, in parallel with the economic growth in urban areas.

Management of irrigation is a key factor for developing an inclusive economy based on market gardening. Sufficient quantities of water are available in these regions, but poor farmers lack time to irrigate and develop their production. To meet their immediate needs, these farmers have to engage in other work, notably as paid farm workers or via a daily commute to the cities. Time-efficient irrigation techniques make it possible for poor farmers to strengthen their market gardening activity while at the same time continuing additional work in the first instance, so as to initiate a cycle of accumulation and intensification of their market gardening. Small scale market gardening can lead to greater economic independence for these families and thus contribute to their food security.

GRET, with support from Find and the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, identifies and tests techniques for innovative irrigation and agriculture with poor farmers in Myanmar and Cambodia (water storage, foot pump, solar pump, drip irrigation, compost, mulching, etc.).

The farmer led-innovation approach

These techniques are developed using an action-research approach to ensure that techniques suit famers’ needs as well as guaranteeing sustainability of the actions undertaken. The farmers are involved in all stages of the approach: identification of techniques, in-situ testing, analysis, evaluation and – in cases where techniques prove to be promising – demonstration and dissemination to other farmers. By contributing their ideas and knowledge, they are no longer just beneficiaries, they are project actors in their own right. The fact that the pilot farmers take ownership of the techniques facilitates their dissemination to their fellow farmers, via demonstrations and practical workshops.

The expected results

  • Irrigation techniques are tested and analysed by farmers: drip, foot pump, solar pump, elevated water storage and sprinkler.
  • Complementary agroecological irrigation techniques are tested and analysed: mulching, liquid inputs, crop rotation, etc.
  • At least 1 000 poor farmers are now using some of these techniques. They are increasing their income and their level of food security.
  • A microfinance product is developed in Myanmar to help farmers purchase irrigation material for the long term.
  • 100 ponds are built or renovated and farmers have better access to water in the dry season
  • A good practices guidebook on the farmer-led innovation approach is published
  • Commercial opportunities are identified in order to facilitate farmers economic integration, especially by making the markets in the Irrawaddy Delta and the Siem Reap region accessible.

Easy water for happy farmers in Myanmar par Gret-videos