ADB-backed mass ir­ri­ga­tion project on track to be­gin work dur­ing Q1 next year

The Myanmar Times - - Business - SU PHYO WIN su­phy­owin@mm­

A MULTI-MIL­LION-DOL­LAR agri­cul­ture project de­signed to up­grade ir­ri­ga­tion net­works in some of Myan­mar’s dri­est ar­eas is ex­pected to be ap­proved by the end of the year, aim­ing to com­mence con­struc­tion in the first quar­ter of 2017, the Asia Devel­op­ment Bank’s Myan­mar coun­try di­rec­tor, Win­fried Wick­lein, con­firmed yes­ter­day.

The project, which is ex­pected to ben­e­fit close to 28,000 house­holds in Magwe, Man­dalay and Sa­gaing re­gions, will see im­prove­ments to ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems across about 90,000 hectares of farm­land, the ADB boss said.

“The project is in its fi­nal stages of ap­proval. It is has been en­dorsed by Cab­i­net and is now be­ing re­viewed by Par­lia­ment,” he said in an email. “We are tar­get­ing the end of Novem­ber 2016 for ap­proval by ADB’s Board.”

The ADB will loan $75 mil­lion to the project, while the French Devel­op­ment Agency will lend an ad­di­tional 25 mil­lion eu­ros ($27.9 mil­lion) and the Euro­pean Union with con­trib­ute an ex­tra 20 mil­lion euro grant, Mr Wick­lein added.

“The project will pro­mote more ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient water use and de­liv­ery to fa­cil­i­tate di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion into more prof­itable and higher value crops in fea­si­ble ar­eas of the sys­tems,” he said.

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing last month be­tween the ADB and the new Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Live­stock and Ir­ri­ga­tion, U Aung Thu, a spokesper­son said that fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies in the Magwe and Man­dalay re­gions, where the first phase of the project is be­gin, were well ad­vanced.

“The project will be about adding value to the agri­cul­tural sup­ply chain, up­grad­ing water man­age­ment and in­fra­struc­ture,” said U Myo Win Than, a deputy sec­re­tary at the min­istry.

Mon, Kayah, Rakhine and Chin states will be sup­ported by the project af­ter Magwe and Man­dalay, he said.

The ADB be­gan work­ing with the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment on the project in 2013, say­ing at the time that agri­cul­ture sec­tor was pro­duc­ing well below its po­ten­tial.

A re­cent re­port from the World Bank found that just 3 mil­lion hectares, or 15 per­cent of agri­cul­tural area, in Myan­mar had ac­cess to pub­lic ir­ri­ga­tion. This com­pares to 30pc of crop area in Thai­land and In­done­sia, 50pc in China, and 70pc in Viet­nam.

In its re­cently re­leased eco­nomic pol­icy out­line, the new gov­ern­ment has pledged to pro­vide farm­ers with greater ac­cess to credit, strengthen land own­er­ship and boost ex­ports.

“At the mo­ment agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity is way below po­ten­tial,” Sean Tur­nell, an eco­nomic ad­viser to the gov­ern­ment, said dur­ing an in­ter­view with Myan­mar Times last month. “There are many rea­sons for that: in­se­cu­rity of land ten­ure, also the prob­lems with sup­ply chain, mar­ket­ing sys­tems, mills, stor­age fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

The ADB’s Wick­lein said that the project’s re­mit in­cluded train­ing for farm­ers to im­prove crop di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, in­struc­tions on water man­age­ment to en­hance yields, pro­vid­ing mar­ket data and links with the pri­vate sec­tor to aid mar­ket ac­cess.

Photo: AFP

A farmer tends to her rice field.

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