A CABI-led project to help smallholder rice and vegetable farmers in Myanmar achieve sustainable ‘green’ agriculture, while maximising their yields and profits, is already starting to bear ‘fruitful’ results.

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the project is working with scientists in Myanmar to understand farmers’ reliance on pesticides to fight a range of crop pests and diseases.

The rice industry remains the most important contributor to GDP, income and employment generation. It is the key commodity for domestic food security and export income with the country having the potential to become a major global food supplier. Myanmar is already one of the world’s largest exporters of pulses and could produce and export many other crops.

However, Myanmar, like many rice-producing nations in Asia, is susceptible to crop losses (though lower than in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam) which is exacerbated by pesticide misuse which, in turn, pollutes water and soil and impacts upon food security, food safety, human health, access to international markets for Myanmar products and non-target (beneficial) organisms.

The latter include toxicity to fish in Myanmar’s important rice-fish aquaculture systems, as well as pollinators and other beneficial organisms. Indeed, there is growing evidence that these problems are already unfolding.

Farmers grow rice

Rice remains the predominant commodity for domestic food security and export income, and there is potential for Myanmar to become a major global rice supplier as it was in the past – Photo: tong2530 –

To combat this, CABI and its partners are well underway with research to understand farmers’ current pest management practices and pesticide use – with a focus on their use on rice and vegetables in major production regions such as in the Delta and Central Dry Zone areas.

A project initiation workshop was successfully held on 29-30th April 2019, and attended by 19 participants from various agricultural, governmental and research organizations. The project team was appointed, the proposal, activities and partners roles were endorsed and work packages finalized.

Six focus group discussions had been carried out across Myanmar with a total of 69 farmers participating. The aim of the groups was to draw insights about farm pest management, to understand their beliefs and practices and decision-making, all of which were used to improve the survey.

Toxicology training at Yezin Agricultural University covered the basics of insecticide resistance monitoring, principles of toxicological research, modes of action of insecticides, genetics of resistance development and general lab techniques.

Dr Sivapragasam Annamalai, Regional Director at CABI’s South East Asia office based in MARDI, Malaysia, said, “In Myanmar, rice intensification is increasingly being challenged by devastating pre-harvest crop losses from insect pests with insecticide misuse being one of the major causes.

“Legal pesticide imports have gradually increased by around 81%, from 11,000 tons to 20,000 tons, between 2011 and 2018. This figure is likely to increase even further and problems related to pesticide misuse, including the fragmentation of existing knowledge on pesticides and the illegal cross-border trade of pesticides, are leading to human health and environmental concerns.

“However, it is hoped that the project will develop preliminary recommendations on best practices that provide sustainable integrated management of pests in rice and vegetables – including challenging the use and misuse of pesticides – as well as understanding the current losses due to crop pests and diseases in Myanmar.”

As part of the project, two surveys, to investigate the incidences of insect pests on three important vegetable crops, cabbage, cauliflower and okra, have also been conducted in areas which could potentially serve as pilot field trial sites for alternative pest management methods. Thirty eight farmers were studied and from these, pest incidence ranked as the highest constraint to farmers.

A comprehensive synthesis of published information on pesticides use was presented at the recent mid-term meeting held in NayPyiTaw on 11-12 February.

Dr Ye Tint Tun, Director General, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, said, “The key elements of this project will provide useful information to contribute to our aims of sustainable ‘green’ agriculture in Myanmar. The project aligns well with our overall Agricultural Development Strategy and its three focus areas of good governance, protection and access to market.”

Learn more about the project from the website

Additional information

Main image: courtesy of Pixabay


Project donor

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Project partners

Department of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation

Myanmar Alliance for Agricultural Research, Rural Development & Advisory Service (AARRDAS)

Yezin Agricultural University, Myanmar

Plantwise Plant Clinics

See also the report ‘Plant clinic data management: An assessment of the use, management and functioning of the Myanmar Plantwise Data Management System.’

Previous projects on rice production around the Mekong

Find out more about CABI’s past work to help increase rice production in southwestern China, Laos and Myanmar.

Relevant news story

Study suggests biological controls to fight crop pests can be a viable alternative to pesticides for rice farmers in the Greater Mekong Subregion.