UNODC alternative development programme in Myanmar gets boost from UN Sec-Gen
Yangon (Myanmar), 1 May 2012 - Myanmar's recent by-election results are yet another sign that real change is occurring in the country. When taken together with the release of political prisoners, the signing of ceasefire agreements, and the on-going negotiations between the Government and armed ethnic groups, these changes - thought impossible little more than a year ago - give new grounds for hope. Still, much remains to be done.
It was in this context that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday visited the southern Shan village of Kyauk Ka Cha yesterday. The purpose of his visit was to highlight the importance of addressing the relationship between food insecurity, poverty, poppy cultivation and armed conflict. Poppy cultivation produces insecurity in Shan State, and addressing it is necessary if support is to be developed for the nascent peace-building process so important to the future of Myanmar.
Speaking to the local officials following the distribution of rice donated by the United Nations, Mr. Ban said: "I welcome the cooperation between Myanmar and the UNODC in delivering alternative development assistance to poppy farmers. The scale of the need is great, and available resources are insufficient. I will be encouraging UN member states to contribute to these programmes in support of the people of Shan."
Government poppy eradication efforts have reportedly increased four-fold in the growing season which just ended. But eradication has also increased food insecurity as communities dependent on income from now-destroyed poppy scramble to feed their families.
The international community is therefore being called upon to invest substantially in alternative development programmes which focus on those opium-dependent communities and give to the farmers jobs, markets and hope.
UNODC assistance is currently limited to three small development projects in south Shan State. The amount involved is a modest US$7 million spread over four years, provided directly to communities on the ground.
The Secretary-General's call was echoed again in a press conference today in Yangon where he pledged the UN's support for alternative development in the poppy-cultivating areas of Shan State.
Myanmar remains the world's second largest opium poppy grower after Afghanistan, accounting for 23 per cent of opium poppy cultivation worldwide in 2011. Poppy grows throughout Shan State. The areas of highest cultivation intensity, however, are in and around those areas of conflict between government and ethnic forces. In December 2011, the government signed a ceasefire agreement with one of two major ethnic armed forces in the State, and signed a ceasefire with the second group in January 2012. These ceasefire agreements each contain an article pledging both government and ethnic force commitment to cooperate on counter-narcotic efforts in ceasefire areas. The agreements have also opened up areas previously inaccessible to government poppy eradication efforts. In the period from September 2011 to January 2012 the government has reported eradication over 22,000 ha of opium poppy. This is triple the amount they reported eradicating in the entire previous growing season.
UNODC estimates that 246,000 households are involved in opium cultivation in Myanmar, with 91 per cent of opium cultivation occurring in Shan State.
Opium poppy eradication is a priority of the Myanmar government, and recent government campaigns have seen a significant increase in the area of opium poppy destroyed. However, although serving a drug control goal, this can have disastrous consequences for the poppy-farming households. These households are generally very poor and often in debt. They generally grow poppy simply to buy food and other subsistence needs.
In 2011, UNODC started to implement three new alternative livelihoods and food security projects in South Shan State, one of which supports the people of Kyauk Ka Cha. These projects are funded by the European Union and the Government of Germany, and include rice assistance provided in partnership with the World Food Programme.
The aim of the three projects is to reduce opium poppy production by providing alternative income-earning and livelihood opportunities. Support services include improved access to farm inputs, credit, markets, transportation, irrigation, knowledge and skills, and improved health service infrastructure.
|This assistance is made possible through the kind
support of the European Union and Germany