Australia’s strategic approach to aid in Myanmar is to improve the lives of the Burmese people in the short term, and to help support improved capacity to design and deliver essential services and encourage reform in the long term. To achieve this goal, Australia is currently providing support to activities that target immediate needs in the health, education, and livelihoods and food security sectors. The focus is on strengthening the capacity of people and organisations in these sectors, as well as supporting vulnerable populations across Myanmar and on the borders with Thailand and Bangladesh. ACIAR’s program is fully aligned with the above approach of the Australian Government. A multidisciplinary program has been developed in collaboration with AusAID, with the main focus on improving food security and livelihoods for smallholders in the central dry zone and the Ayeyarwady Delta. The program is targeting, through research, development and extension, the immediate needs of the generally vulnerable Burmese people. There will also be a strong focus on capacity building for both people and institutions, as many of Myanmar’s agricultural scientists have been isolated from international cooperation over recent years.
ACIAR’s aim is to continue to work predominantly through international organisations and NGOs, including Australian-accredited organisations. Working with agencies with a longstanding presence on the ground has proved that it is possible to deliver assistance in an effective and accountable way. For example, promising results have been achieved in a multilateral ACIAR project led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT; India) on improving the productivity of legumes in the central dry zone of Myanmar. The current program is based on the achievements of these projects and on scoping missions to identify research gaps, in consultation with Burmese counterparts, donors and potential research providers.
Future research priorities would be within the following spectrum:
- Further collaboration for improvement in the productivity of grain legumes
- Diversification and intensification of rice-based cropping systems to increase overall productivity and farm income
- Smallholder and community aquaculture development, and post-Nargis community remediation in the Ayeyarwady Delta
- Research support for smallholder livestock-based cattle enterprises in the central dry zone
- Socioeconomic factors affecting the acceptability and adoption of promising technologies.