Myanmar is the world's second-largest opium poppy grower. Shan State remains the center of Myanmar's opium activities, accounting for 92 per cent of opium poppy cultivation, with the remainder located mainly in Kachin State.

In 2013, it was estimated that 57,814 hectares were under opium poppy cultivation, a significant increase of 13 % compared to 2012. Despite eradication efforts, higher yields combined with a rise in cultivation saw Myanmar opium production increase 26 % in 2013 to an estimated 870 tonnes - the highest since assessments by UNODC and the Myanmar Government began in 2002. ( Southeast Asia Opium Survey 2013 - Lao PDR, Myanmar)

Food insecurity and poverty in the rural areas fuel illicit opium poppy cultivation, which is reinforced by the armed conflicts and ethnic tensions in Shan and Kachin States. The area has been marked by lack of or limited development assistance, with over 60 years of civil war and tensions. UNODC estimates that over 335,000 households are dependent on opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar.

The Government's eradication efforts intensified in the recent years, following the 15 year plan of opium poppy cultivation elimination by 2014 and the Government's ban on opium has had devastating effects on some ethnic minorities and has exacerbated poverty and food insecurity. Accompanied by frequent shortages of rice, these losses of income in areas where illicit crops have been eradicated have led to an increase in human trafficking, drug abuse, environmental destruction, as well as to an indiscriminate use of natural resources and trafficking in fauna and flora. In this connection, UNODC has led initiatives to provide poor farmers with food security and alternative livelihoods.


Covering the 2008-2011 period, UNODC's Wa Project in the Mong Pawk District under the Kokang and Wa Initiative (KOWI) facilitated the engagement of new partner organizations into the region. KOWI partners included Government departments, United Nations entities and national and international organizations.

The Government has asked UNODC to assist in implementing its national alternative development strategy for the period 2012-2014, and requested to dramatically increase alternative development support and provide direct technical assistance in this regard.

UNODC has developed projects to improve short- and medium-term access to food and income in villages in Myanmar. UNODC is also currently working on increasing food security and promoting licit crop production and small farmer development enterprise development in the Subregion.


Food security in Myanmar

People living in the area covered by the project are not able to produce enough food and much of the land that could be used for agricultural purposes is being used to cultivate opium poppy.

The project aims to assist farmers in several villages in the Southern Shan State to improve their farming techniques and increase their income, enabling them to invest in sustainable legal agricultural practices that will benefit the wider community. This project intends to meet or even exceed food needs of the community. which can then expand its economy by increasing its involvement in agribusiness. This will enable the provision to markets of processed products, which command higher prices.


Regional project in South-East Asia: Increasing food security and promoting licit crop production and small-farmer development enterprise development in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar.

The project's aim is to address the pressing needs related to the current opium scenario, enabling farmers to achieve food security and be self-reliant without having to cultivate opium poppy in order to generate an income. Activities focus specifically on alleviating poverty by improving food security levels in selected communities in the Lao province of Oudomxay and the Pekhon township in Myanmar's Southern Shan State. The project's main strategy is to assist small farmers to join the mainstream of economic and business development by implementing interventions that increase agricultural productivity. Small-farmer associations and cooperatives will be strengthened. Major target groups are communities that are currently active in the cultivation of opium poppy and communities that cultivated opium poppy in the past and suffer from food deficiency.