The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Utilizing Resources for Livelihoods: Constraints and Opportunities

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on July 15, 2014

Livelihood systems of the two villages more or less depend on land and forest resources. Farmers in Tualzaang mainly focus on land for both food and cash crops whereas those in Ngalzaang mainly utilize lands for growing food crops and forests for earning cash income. The farming system in Tualzaang is semi-permanent while farmers in Ngalzaang employ traditional shifting cultivation. As a result, household food sufficiency level is significantly higher in Tualzaang (3.9 months) than in Ngalzaang (2.3 months). Similar regard with less significance applies to mean household income, i.e. 780,000kyats in Tualzaang and 710,000kyats in Ngalzaang (1USD=965kyats) for the year 2013. While farmers in both villages are not food-sufficient through their own production, farmers in Tualzaang gain a significantly higher level of food sufficiency and a slightly higher level of household income than do farmers in Ngalzaang.

Another finding indicates that livelihood systems in Tualzaang are more productive and sustainable since farmers employ crop rotation by intercropping maize with various legumes. This enables them to gain maize yield of 11.6 baskets per acre (1 basket=33.3kg) even on repeated farm lands without fertilizer inputs compared with the 6.8 baskets per acre harvested on newly cultivated lands in Ngalzaang. Per acre yield rates of other major crops as upland rice (15.5 baskets), groundnut (17.6 baskets), and potato (318.2kg) also are very low compared with those obtained in other parts of the world. On the contrary, farmers in Ngalzaang practice shifting cultivation primarily because arable land areas are still abundant. They also see that cultivation on repeated lands attracts more weeds and produces lower yield unless fertilizer is applied. For practicing shifting cultivation by felling trees does not always guarantee food sufficiency, farmers in Ngalzaang inevitably employ certain coping strategies that depend again on forest products, of which many increasingly disappears.

The study also finds that there is limited innovation or value addition in linking resources to livelihoods. Farmers know well that early weeding (i.e. during September-October) is the best to capture the effects of conservation farming that enhances soil fertility, conserves moisture, reduces weed infestation, and maintains higher yield. This suggests that farmers can fulfill the key features of conservation farming if they start weeding about 4-6 months earlier. Similar regards apply to forest products that can fetch higher prices if processed to meet market demand. Again, most cultivated lands in both villages are freehold and most forest products in Ngalzaang derive from reserved forests. Unfortunately, most villagers do not know about the related laws (i.e. land law, forest law, etc.) regulating the use and/or extraction of resources. Their access to resources may thus become limited unless villagers take proper protection measures (certificate, license, etc.).

Finally, this study finds the need of innovation in utilizing resources for livelihoods. Yet, there is a crucial need of changes as to the way of thinking and behavior of villagers before any innovation in resource use takes place. Without those changes being ensured, every investment made for linking resources to livelihoods will surely get in vain.

 

This blog post has been written by Cin Khan En Do Pau (John).  John is Actions Coordination Director for the Center for Resources Mobilization, Research Fellow at RCSD-Chiang Mai University (2012–13) and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.

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