Daw Mi Cho, a key farmer for East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer, from Kayin State, Myanmar
At roughly 5 feet tall, Daw Mi Cho’s nickname certainly doesn’t come from her physical stature.
She manages and works on her own vegetable farm in Myanmar’s Kayin State which borders north-western Thailand.
“It’s difficult to find male labor for the farm sometimes,” says Daw Mi Cho, nicknamed Big Boss, referring to the regular migration of people from her state into Thailand looking for work.
On her first demonstration farm, she did all the manual labor herself, with the exception of some land preparation tasks. Things were quite different before she became the boss.
Challenging traditional techniques
Big Boss has always been a farmer. But just three years ago, the profits from her corn and kangkong plots were roughly USD 200 per harvest over 3 acres. When considering her time, this was just about helping her and her family to stay afloat.
She was not the only one. Many vegetable growers in Kayin were using traditional farming techniques that could only deliver low yields and poor quality produce. But this was about to change.
Six to one
Her most recent harvest was highly profitable. She has been able to reinvest in a tiller for future land preparation after she earned a net profit of about USD 2100 (compared to profits of less than USD 200 before).
Big Boss’ latest Return on Investment was 6:1 on roughly a quarter of an acre, a fraction of the land space she used previously.
This is because she has implemented several technologies she has learned from the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT) team, in partnership with MEDA in Kayin. The technologies she has learned include bed preparation, net trellising and mulching that she used on her demonstration farm.
A demonstration farm is used as a way to show a community that these technologies truly work and are both practical and manageable for smallholder farmers.
It is just one of the approaches used by EWS-KT to share tried-and-tested knowledge, empowering farmers to achieve higher yields. This leads to higher incomes that can help stimulate local economies.
In this case, it has also resulted in Daw Mi Cho’s nickname as she has become a pioneer in her community.
“When they [other farmers] come to me for advice, I encourage them to take notes. Sometimes they don’t bring notebooks so I give some to them,” says Big Boss.
The ripple effect
She now has 30 farmers following her advice, both women and men, an indirect outreach or ‘ripple effect’ of the activities implemented by EWS-KT.
Some farmers can be protective of knowledge they have acquired - thinking they need the competitive edge in the market - and may be reluctant to share it with their neighbors.
“No,” says Big Boss when asked if she feels that way, “I want to see the other families live in a nice environment and have good relationships.”
Across the road from her farm, her neighbor Tun Tun Win has followed the techniques she has taught him - just as precisely as she has done herself.
She inspects his field, before giving him a nod of approval. He smiles, knowing he has passed Big Boss’ strict quality control.
From right to left: Daw Mi Cho, her neighbor and apprentice Tun Tun Win and Ko Eng Sai, EWS-KT technical field officer
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