A 50-year period of military dictatorship and civil war has prevented progress being made in Myanmar. Things have only been improving since March 2011 following the government's change in policy. There is much to do: Thirty-two percent of the population lives in absolute poverty. Welthungerhilfe supports the inhabitants of the county of Htan Tabin on their way to a better future.
Htan Tabin is located in southern Myanmar, only 20 km from the metropolis of Yangon. Despite its proximity to the metropolis, this region, is not very developed: The road and street network is poor and there are few opportunities to earn a living outside of agriculture.
Most of the population makes its income from rice cultivation; but only a third of the population owns their own rice fields. The remainder work as helpers in agriculture, as occasional labourers or as travelling hawkers. These jobs are often underpaid, causing many families to take out loans from local lenders at excessive interest rates. Bad harvests, an inability to work and illness frequently make it impossible to repay the loans. It is a cycle of poverty.
Village committees are planning the development of the community
All of Welthungerhilfe's activities in Htan Tabin focus on increasing the capacity of the people to help themselves; mainly through the establishment of village committees. In 23 committees, people plan how their communities should develop and what should be planted where. For example, numerous repairs have made many roads and bridges around Htan Tabin accessible throughout the year again.
Continuing education courses help to ensure that there is more work for everyone – women are learning to sew; men are training as mechanics and electricians. The village committees are also addressing the issue of massive debt. They form village development funds that are used to build up capital on a cooperative basis.
The construction of schools and roads has contributed to more children going to school, as routes are now shorter and safer. The self-help approach is also bearing fruit as people in Htan Tabin are now developing creative ideas to improve their situation. Lots of small shops are being opened, for example. Either way, the training courses and more favourable loan terms have given people the courage to try new things.
Community capital from savings groups
Community capital is built up through a separate village development fund, whereby the capital is used to offer competitive credit to the members of newly-formed savings and loan groups. In light of these opportunities for participation and co-determination, it is clear that the inhabitants of Htan Tabin have achieved a lot.
The commitment of the people in Htan Tabin is also needed in 2013.
A new school is to be built, and roads and irrigation channels are to be constructed over several kilometres. This will benefit a total of 3,000 people. It will then be up to the inhabitants to maintain their newly found self-help capacity. Thanks to their newly created village and administration structures, the people in Htan Tabin will have a permanent way to make their voices heard – and thus will contribute to the further democratisation of Myanmar.
This project is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).