UK aid, WWF to help Myanmar develop ‘green’ rubber
THE UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), have made a joint investment of over US$2.4 million to catalyse change in Myanmar’s rubber production, emphasising “green” (environmentally friendly) rubber.
The project, supported by DFIDfunded DaNa Facility and conservation organisation, focuses on developing sustainable rubber production in Tanintharyi Region. The scheme has a long-term goal that the region, as part of the WWF initiative, provides a replicable business model in sustainable and traceable rubber.
Tom Coward, Team Leader of the Inclusive Growth and Livelihoods Unit for DFID in Myanmar, said during the launch that it is exciting to see the “significant transformative potential” of producing rubber sustainably in the country.
“With Myanmar the seventh largest rubber producer in the world, this project has huge potential to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers, while also promoting the feasibility and profitability of ‘zero deforestation’ sustainable rubber,” he remarked.
The project will be implemented in partnership with Tanintharyi-based Dawei Golden Land Co (DGL), established in 2017 by the Tanintharyi Rubber Planters and Producers Association (TRPPA). DGL is a proactive actor in the sector and is committed to break the cycle of low quality and low priced rubber, while TRPPA have invested over $1 million in building a new rubber factory that enables highquality rubber to be produced at a scale attractive to premium buyers.
In addition, this UK and WWFfunded project will also support the export of zero deforestation rubber produced through direct links to sustainable international markets. This has enormous significance not just for Myanmar but for the entire ASEAN region.
Myanmar is the world’s seventh largest producer of rubber and rubber is one of the country’s biggest exports. Yet, the sector is stuck in a cycle of low yields, poor processing, low quality products, and low pricing, making Myanmar dependent on the cut-price market.
In 2015, UK researchers reported in Conservation Letters that the global demand for rubber tyres is threatening protected forests in Southeast Asia. The study found that by 2024, up to 8.5 million hectares of new rubber plantations will be needed to meet the growing demand. Rubber is one of the most rapidly expanding tree crops within Southeast Asia, with plantations expanding in various countries, including this country.
Gaurav Gupta, Programme Manager from WWF Myanmar said that rubber production in Myanmar has led to deforestation and displaced communities from their customary land.
“A shift towards sustainable rubber production will ensure that there is no further deforestation, no land grabbing, and no human rights violations,” Mr Gupta commented.
The scheme consists of three main components. It will first support DGL in working with their suppliers by setting up collection centres in nine villages and training smallholders in sustainable rubber agroforestry systems, including the requirements of zero deforestation, and purchasing latex from the farmers to ensure a fully traceable and transparent processes.
The project will then support DGL in developing their rubber processing factory to meet the sustainability compliance requirements of international premium buyers, ISO quality standards and to produce the large volume of consistent, high quality rubber, needed for the business to attract the sustainable buyers necessary to become commercially viable.
Finally, it will support DGL in marketing their products internationally to attract premium, sustainable buyers. The project has already secured expressions of interest from a Singapore-based buyer and is conducting discussions with premium international tire producers.
250 smallholder producers will work with the project to increase their income by up to 30pc through training in sustainable rubber agroforestry practices. By selling latex directly to the factory for processing, the aim is to help an additional 2500 smallholder producers save around 50pc of their labour-production time with no loss of income. The new sustainable rubber factory will also create another 250 new full-time jobs, 60pc of which will be for women.