Myanmar

Delta Farmers Still Struggle to Recover from Nargis

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By SAI ZOM HSENG

“What we need is seeds and the resources to successfully restart our farming,” said Win Maung, one of the Irrawaddy Delta residents who has not been able to fully resume his normal livelihood since Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008.

Although farmers have begun to work their land once again, the conditions have made it difficult for them to farm without losing money, according local people from the Cyclone Nargis affected area.

“We took loans from the rich people to start farming and planting, but the amount of rice we can produce is going down day by day. So farmers are caught in a vicious circle of loans and the benefits are going to the rich people,” said Win Maung.

Chit one, a resident of Labutta, said that the local farmers lost everything in the cyclone. Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, he said, “We depend on our farms for income, but after Nargis we don’t have cows, tractors, harrows and even ploughs. All we have is land filled with silt.”

On May 2-3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta and some parts of Rangoon Division, killing over 130,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

Dr. Phone Win, the managing director of Mingalar Myanmar, a nonprofit organization promoting humanitarian activities in the delta area, said that the required amount of money for rehabilitation is over US $1 billion, but there has only been $500 million invested. The needs in the damaged area are still high, he said.

The farmers received a further setback after Cyclone Nargis because the unseasonable weather did not stop, a local farmer from Maw Kyun Township said.

“There was heavy rain in the dry season and it destroyed our crops. We had to borrow money to survive and we owed more and more amounts of money,” he said.

According to residents of Labutta and Bokalay townships, the local authorities charged money for distributed material and equipment such as fiber boats, tractors, tool sets, etc.

“A boat which can go to the sea cost 600,000 kyat ($713), a smaller one is 300,000 kyat ($356) and a tractor is 500,000 kyat ($594). The prices are recognized by the authorities and we can buy things on installment,” a resident from Labutta said.

Ohn Kyaing, a spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) who led the organization's relief efforts in the delta area after the cyclone, said that the other requirements in the Delta area are transportation and improvements in the education system.

“If another disaster happens, the roads are not good enough to flee. Transportation is the main thing which has to be promoted,” Ohn Kyaing said.

According to UN data, 22 semi-permanent schools have been built in Pyapon, Dedaye and Bokalay townships with the support international social foundations, and five with the support of the Japan Habitat Association. These projects serve more than 6,000 children from the Cyclone Nargis affected area.