This year, Myanmar experienced two disasters. While lower Myanmar was hit by floods, central Myanmar experienced a drought.
The about one-month-long drought spelt ruin for sesame farmers and groundnut farmers in central Myanmar. The drought caused shortage of feedstuff for draught cattle and drinking water.
According to statistics, the drought affected more than 270,000 acres of groundnuts and over 1.3 million acres of sesame grown in the early monsoon season in Magway Region, located in the country’s dry zone where mainly oil crops are grown.
In the dry zone, water is becoming more scarce every year with frequent droughts. The dry zone comprises 58 townships in Mandalay, Magwe, and Sagaing, and is home to 10 million people, who mostly rely on rain-fed agriculture and oil crops.
We should keep in mind that Myanmar is the world’s second most vulnerable country to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index prepared y research group Germanwatch. Studies have shown that the onset of monsoon is becoming more variable, increasing the risk of drought.
Meanwhile, scarcity of clean water in villages across the country has become common in the summer season, with lakes that once supplied drinking water running dry.
The worst has not yet come. Food security will be at risk if more rice-producing regions experience crop failure, and an energy crisis will be imminent if supply of water at hydropower plants falls short. The chain reaction set off by drought will continue further in the form of inflation as a result of declining rice production.
Now is the time for us to teach our farmers about drought tolerant farming techniques to ensure they produce more food and more profit with less water.
Drought is a major agricultural challenge affecting food production, farmers’ livelihoods, and costs the government billions of dollars in relief efforts. Without water, no farmer can grow crops.
We need to encourage our farmers to take up different crops and different agricultural techniques, which need less water, and different methods of improving productivity.
But, in some areas, farmers must have the option of learning another trade or business to earn a livelihood.
Myanmar had abundant water, holding 16 per cent of the water resources in ASEAN and 12 per cent in all of Asia.
We should find new ways to satisfy the impending rapid increase in demand for water and tackle new challenges for providing adequate water to everyone. We may survive the dry season, but our failure to preserve water may someday be the end of us.