Sunday, November 18, 2007

NEED-Burma and the Food Security Crisis in Burma


Last week, I began helping out part-time with the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED-Burma), an NGO that works on training Burmese on sustainable agriculture methods. Because of poor economic policies, rapid natural resource extraction, and the ongoing civil war, the food security and environmental situation in Burma is worsening. In 1960, Burma was the world's #1 rice exporter. Today, 40% of children are malnourished. This particular NGO seeks to train Burmese from all over Burma on how to grow organic and nutritious fruit and produce that does not pollute or degrade the environment.

Yesterday, NEED's Sustainable Agriculture Advisor said to me that most Burma-related empowerment groups concentrate solely on politics and democracy, but not many give environmental and agricultural training to those on the ground. NEED works to ensure that its farming methods can be replicated in any agricultural area in Burma.

Not to digress too much, but personally, as a trained environmentalist, one of the easiest and most effective ways to take care of the environment and to ensure a future for subsequent generations is to focus on how food is grown. Too much harmful pesticides is used and waste created in the food production methods that most of the world uses today.

In addition to starting a sizeable compost pile out of food waste and leaf litter, we began building an ecological sanitation toilet at NEED's model farm yesterday. It is based on the Indian Kerala system. It's a urine diversion dehydration (UDD) toilet. The urine will be siphoned off as fertilizer, the faeces will go into a drop hole for processing, and the washing water will go to an evapo-transpiration bed, probably for coconuts. To my knowledge, it will be the first of its kind in Thailand. And if this demonstration toilet is a success, and the knowledge can be transferred over to Burma, it can be the start of eco-san in Burma. That's an exciting and hopeful thought.

NEED's explanation on its choice of focusing on Sustainable Agriculture HERE.

Read the February 2007 brief on Burma's Ecological Crisis written by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro HERE.