Myanmar’s Smart Farmers & Saving Mozambique’s Forests

Farmers in Myanmar use design to stay ahead of climate change; and a community in Mozambique is planting a future.

Myanmar’s Smart Farmers

Practically isolated from the global market for 50 years, Myanmar is still largely dependent on agriculture. But the country is one of the most at risk from climate change and no one feels these pressures more than the rural smallholder farmers who make up the backbone of its food system and rural economy.

Shorter monsoons and rising temperatures mean severe droughts have become more frequent in recent decades. This has led to higher levels of saltwater intrusion in important rice growing territories and an increase in the risk of complete crop failure.

Proximity Designs is a social enterprise which was founded to provide farmers with low-cost, low-tech equipment to help them adapt and thrive in their changing environment.

They ensure their products are both affordable and suitable by employing a team of data-gatherers to conduct thorough research within the farming communities. And thanks to a network of some 900 scooter-driving “field agents”, their products can even find their way to the most remote parts of the country.

Russell Beard travels to Myanmar to meet the innovators behind Proximity Designs and to see how their products and expertise are helping farmers stay one step ahead in a changing world.

Mozambique: Planting a future

According to the UN, South America and Africa lose forests at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. After years of civil war Mozambique is trying to rebuild itself from the ruins, but the development comes at a great cost to the country’s natural resources.

The rich hardwood forests of Mozambique are currently under threat. Trees are being chopped down and burnt into charcoal, which supplies 80 percent of Mozambicans with fuel, as well as a steady source of income. But the destruction of this precious resource is unsustainable – and not only threatens people’s livelihoods but also has serious climate change implications.

One small village near the coastal town of Beira, however, is challenging this trend by putting forest conservation at the centre of community development. The Mezimbite Forest Centre’s entrepreneurial activities include a nursery division that grows and plants thousands of trees, and a design and production division that uses sustainable natural resources to create high-end products for sale both locally and internationally.

The centre also has a multi-purpose education programme that nurtures the specialised skills required for bespoke design production and agroforestry as well as providing education for the children in the community.

Join Ndoni Khanyile in Central Mozambique where a local community project is hoping to break the cycle of poverty by not only growing trees and skills but futures.