On 1 February 2021, the military once again took power in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. The country's citizens articulated their anger and frustration over this change of power first on social media and soon after on the streets. The military junta may have underestimated the force of the resistance and is now increasingly using violence and intimidation to quell the uprisings.
Even before the coup, the situation in the country was difficult. The COVID-19 restrictions had a devastating impact on the economic situation of the people. The number of households below the poverty line increased from 16 to 63 per cent during 2020. In addition, due to armed conflicts between the military and various ethnic groups, over 330,000 people are living as internally displaced persons in camp-like conditions in the country.
Through its work in Myanmar, HEKS/EPER aims to continue to help improve the living conditions of ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups in Myanmar. Agriculture is an extremely important sector for driving economic, social and environmental development in Myanmar. Smallholder farmers need support to make both production and processing of agricultural products more efficient. There is hardly any lack of innovative ideas and well-trained people in Myanmar, but the framework conditions for the development and realisation of business ideas are not right. One focus of the HEKS programme in Myanmar is therefore the identification, training and networking of local social enterprises in the agricultural sector.
In the second year since becoming involved on the ground, HEKS/EPER has mounted small innovative projects facilitating direct access for 2000 peasant families and indirect access for another 7000 to agricultural machinery, seeds and continuing training, specifically in the area of market prices and accounting. The upshot is that they are producing more efficiently and selling more profitably and enjoying a stable livelihood.