We Love Inle Lake Project, Myanmar
Our 3-year youth-led project working with young people and communities in the Pekhon and Nyaung Shwe townships of Inle Lake, Myanmar, completed in January 2018. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run with our local partners, the Kalyana Mitta Foundation, has achieved successful outcomes in eco-farming, youth empowerment, sustainable livelihood and youth led natural resource management. The project takes a holistic approach towards watershed conservation issues and the livelihood needs of local communities and many activities will continue and grow in the longer term.
Fifty-six youth completed the 3-month long eco farming training courses and 44 of the youth are now practicing eco farming, confident they will continue. They returned to their villages and started practicing eco farming and with support from the project team trained other farmers in their communities and near-by villages either formally or informally in eco farming techniques. The young farmers also set up 25 demonstration plots as examples of eco farming that inspire other farmers to take on eco farming and show them the effectiveness of organic farming in contrast to the highly chemicalised practices that are customary in the area. As a result, there are now 970 households in 50 villages actively practicing eco-farming and 1053 households with increased diversity of crops having moved away from mono-agriculture. Change stories from participants expressed their improved understanding of the value of organic farming methods and their commitment to take this newly gained knowledge and practical experience back to their villages.
After the eco farming training I began to learn to be free from fear and to make use of local available resources for farming or families. No one knew how to turn them into locally available useful products before the training. Now villagers are interested in buffalo dung as a natural fertilizer. As a result of the training, I am able to offer practical knowledge such as bokashi compost, shampoo & solid soap making and bamboo vinegar making.” (Ko Sein Myint; Kaung Ei Village, Pekhon)
I now have 100 avocados, 100 bananas with some mixing crops in 3 acres of land. I used to grow single crop and pests and diseases destroyed most of the crops. Now I don’t do mono-agriculture.” (Than Tin EF, LweLon Village, Kaung Ei Village Tract, Pekhon)
Eco Social Enterprise
Thirty youth completed the Eco Social Enterprise training, an emerging concept that considers caring for the environment, social concerns and youth empowerment as well as income generation. 25 trainees formed three working groups and established enterprises in water hyacinth craft products, added value food processing linking with produce from the young eco farmers, and an Eco café. Establishing the Eco Social Enterprises was more challenging than expected as it was difficult to find consultants with experience to support them, and the youth struggled with marketing. However, this concept has attracted a lot of interest and the three established Eco Social Enterprises will continue after the project ends.
Seed Fund Projects
To support community resilience 10 on-going community self-reliance projects have been established including an agro tree nursery, an eco-shop, pig & chicken-raising and savings groups. There are also 16 on-going Natural Resource Management seed fund projects e.g. water source care, community forest, water resource maintenance, herbal conservation, composting, fish breeding, waste management. There are many more local initiatives by youth groups all contributing to self-reliance and community resilience.
Green Youth Groups A strategy of KMF is to inspire young people and then have them form youth groups and set up their own activities. Many youth joined Disaster Risk Reduction and Natural resource management training and alumni were inspired to create 11 new Green Youth Groups around the watershed caring for the environment in their locality. The project also strengthened 9 existing Youth Groups. In total around 830 youth are active in community organising for self-reliance and natural resource management.
Youth Led Natural Resource Management The annual We Love Inle & We Love Pekhon Campaigns mobilised hundreds of youth raising awareness of the need for natural resource management. The youth did waste collection at big festivals and events and had a marquee with exhibitions on local species and watershed issues. In the final year the campaigns have been organised by local CBOs and this will continue in years to come.
An unexpected outcome of the project has been the establishment and strengthening of active Community Based Organisations (CBO) Networks in Pekhon & Nang Shewe working with around 50 CBOs linking with other stakeholders. These are creating channels for voices of the communities to influence opinion in watershed management to other stakeholders including government, NGOs, businesses etc.. In Nyaung Shwe representatives from the CBO network have been invited to contribute to local government organised meetings on watershed management and lobbied on areas such as transparency of decision-making.
Participatory Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (PMEL)
PMEL has been in place throughout the project involving stakeholders and beneficiaries at all parts of project cycle. Key activities are participatory baseline and midterm and end project PMEL. This contributed to the project evaluation and evidenced impact to outcomes and indicators. This included consultations, seminars and interviews with beneficiaries, stakeholders and local team. Change stories, a short film and an evaluation report also verified the impact of project.
The project exceed targets in some areas particularly eco farming where extension is largely spread through enthusiasm of the young farmers. There was an unexpected amount of interest in Pekhon. Individually funded demo plots and local contribution to natural resource management and eco farming activities have also increased expected impact.
On-going follow up includes a Participatory Guarantee System for organic farming, preparing a 3 year follow on project for Pekhon and further establishing the Pekhon CBO network, and capacity building for self-reliance groups.