Organic Agro and Farmer Affairs Development Group (OAFADG) is a self-reliance farmers group founded in year 2011 September, aiming at promoting farmers’ interest and improving quality of their lives, in Pwint Phyu township, Magway division. They also target to produce organic farm products, to minimize the cost of farmers’ agricultural inputs, to improve access of farmers to rights with better understanding about land law and policy, to establish the farmers’ networks.
A core management committee was formed with 9 members from 7 village tracts. As an entry point of launching year 2011, the role of Paung Ku in the process is to facilitate discussion of the problems to be addressed in forming interest groups. In the context of self-reliant participatory development, interest group refers to any group of any size composed of farmers who have come together to pursue a common interest related to individual or group improvement in the spheres of social and economic development. Paung Ku did not form group nor did their works be judged on them. Paunk Ku Shan-Magway team did not engage in decision making, but encouraged them to act on their own behalf and to perceive the added strength of joint action.
Giving priority when project launched, it had a sharp focus on advocacy to promote organic farming system and methods by planning to roll out in 5 target villages where five interest groups were formed with representatives from 50 villages (10 villages per group). During 2011, Paung Ku supported grant and made a link with technical resource to provide trainings and refresher trainings for Trainers of training group (ToT group) in Pwint Phyu.
The core trainers disseminated the knowledge about organic farming by organizing educational activities. Myanmar Organic Agricultural Group (MOAG) provided training on producing organic fertilizer and organic pesticides for 5 days training for core trainers group. The numbers of trained core trainers have reached up to 50 in year 2012.
The training package is designed and structured in such a way that it includes 6 modules and training is 5 days intensive course to complete for every participant and attended by 30 farmers per intake and tailored to the needs of the farmers group and mobile from village to village.
Up to 2013, 150 farmers were trained already in 5 different training camps in villages. The package was developed by national agriculture experts from MOAG and training cost was supported by Paung Ku’s grants. Immediately followed by more and more trainings which were provided by using local resource persons from OAFADG.
Field visit of OAFADG members to pilot black sesame seeds farming field/OAFADG
Year 2013, more multiplier trainings were cascaded to cover all villages (70 villages) and awareness raising of organic farming was intensified in corporate with strategic planning. Pilot organic farming started at the same year for establishing a role model. Individual farmers were also interested in the pilot scale project and started on their own land at their own investment.
They tried to scale up their own project extensively year by year from small scale pilot. This choice was based on their own analysis of their reality. They identified their problems, analyzed causes and investigated possible solutions, and chose their own course of action.
Year 2014 has strategic focus on sustainability of organic farming development. As far as Paung Ku is concerned, in terms of sustainability, it is more cost-effective. The OAFADG sustains its leading role and encourages the farmers to continue using organic methods and meeting among themselves are organized to provide a framework for long-term strategy. The mass production and investigating market is termed as agreed action plan for all members.
The OAFADG tried to stretch out its arm length to find out more opportunities to access to market. Bearing in mind that the advocacy to promote organic products is critical to sustainable development, they are successful in an attempt to make a link with regional authorities through local authorities at township. This is a big achievement notched up by the OAFADG and lead to more cooperation from regional government in following years 2017 -2018.
Second half of the year 2015 returned to mobilizing farmers by continuing its training program with fresh data and update information. 45 trainees participated in the training within the year. They are exposed to an intensive participatory training process which is inseparable from their development.
The training involves interaction with the farmers to investigate the socio-economic realities and contradictions within the community and how these are linked with higher macro-level structures and relationships. Such participatory development was not stimulated by Paung Ku Shan-Magway team which are not themselves internally participatory. Paung Ku only facilitated mentoring services and assisted to reflect on their organizational development for future direction. The OAFADG restructured its group by growing its size from 9 members to 19 members.
The OAFADG reviewed the existing training manual and revised version was developed in Year 2016. A research team was formed with 5 core members to engage with Participatory research on specific areas such as soil quality improvement, farming inputs cost, and evaluating impact of local product.
Their research findings proved that using newly discovered methods for producing agents can save the cost of farming inputs by one-fourth of the total cost per acre. The OAFADG made a decision to do a pilot research at field in year 2017 and 2018 so that they can see and prove that how their improved ingredients and agent effectively work to market adaptation.
The OAFADG has seen the Year 2017 as a year of fat cows for farmers who applied the organic farming methods on selected ground for pilot research. The pilot farming, to grow black sesame seeds was tested on 15 acres of land which is equally shared by 30 farmers. They are members of participatory research who contributed their own resources such as plot of land, effort, services, skills, cost and knowledge.
The pilot research began with the trainings extended to three different sites where participated by 90 farmers. Then one test ground per each site was selected and 10 interesting farmers held responsibility to do research on each ground. A member was nominated to assign with responsibility to monitor the research farm. Paung Ku Shan-magway team supported grant for cost of field visit made by assigned farmers.
Taking one step forward to market, 365 baskets of chemical agent free organic black sesame seed were exported to Japan through a Japanese company, Mitsubishi which was introduced to OAFADG project by regional prime minister of Magway division. Sesame plantation is a pilot scheme to apply fully organic inputs in year 2017.
Year 2018 is a productive year of OAFADG for doing its research and investigating market by mainstreaming together. Their year plan for 2018 specified two major activities that comply with the main objective of the organization. These are mentioned as a movement towards economically viable project with respect to production and trading. Individual household is to produce the organic farm inputs such as organic fertilizer, pesticide, weed removing agents etc. to the market while the OAFADG is to make a link with government to get registered trademark for sale market.
The process is ongoing and the OAFADG is in progress with government line department for approval. The action research drives the organization to take responsibility to promote sale through its key alliances such as Alin-ein, Magway Youth networks, ME, Edu, Green networks etc.
The Action Research being carried out in 2018 has notched up its significant achievement in rain used rice plantation by cooperation of government resource persons. The local government assist with the experts who accompany the field visits three times a month. Moreover, external technical resource person who retired from agricultural department also participates in field visit once a month.
The cooperative action of government with OAFADG is highly regarded as a contributing support that tend to achieve the immediate objective and long-term objective set by the OAFADG. The future plan for 2019 includes to produce rice based value added food.
Good lesson learned from Paung Ku partner is that a self-sustaining development process benefitting the poor farmers must be based on their own mobilization of their resources. In addition, the farmers must gain access to other available resources to which they are entitled. It is a slow-moving process and requires considerable patience, and for them it is never-ending.
There could be many setbacks and even total failures, but the successes will be genuine and long-lasting. Eventually partnership must be extended to include other institutions, and especially the government, so that the local community interest groups can be assured of access to resources and a stable environment for further development.
Resources must be mobilized to fuel the engine of development. Beginning with the mobilization of their own meagre resources as the basis of self-reliance, individuals and groups must gradually acquire rightful access to external resources and services on mutually acceptable terms.