Traveling across Myanmar during the course really helped to highlight how much change the country is undergoing as its continues along with the political and economic transitions underway. Our visits helped to highlight the role of external actors to these processes, in particular by understanding some of the ongoing work of the US Agency for International Development and the Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development in Myanmar (MIID).
One of the highlights of our meeting at the US Embassy in Yangon was the importance of USAID work in supporting access to credit and mechanization in the Ayeyarwady Delta Region. Given the range of informal work that we saw across Myanmar, it was very interesting to hear about the challenges that some farmers have faced with recruiting labor and how this has helped to fuel mechanisation in the Delta. I was glad that we were able to discuss some of the benefits and trade off to this approach and better understand how farmers are adapting to changes in the types of jobs that people in Myanmar desire.
Visiting with MIID in Yangon allowed us to better understand the organization’s work, building upon our earlier visit to an MIID project. One of the elements of MIID that stood out to me was the mixture of Burmese staff and foreign staff. I think that a lot of organizations in the international development sector are criticized for not adequately utilizing local staff, so it was great to see that leaders within MIID were Burmese. Having voices that intimately understand some of the communities that projects will be targets seeming as though it would help in the planning and implementation of effective projects.
Overall, the visits to these organizations left me with a sense of both how much development activity there is within Myanmar but also the many issues and challenges that remain. Hearing directly from farmers, highlighted that impact that organizations such as MIID can have with communities and the important work that they do. However, I hope that as Myanmar continues to develop that there is more government capacity to actively address some of the challenges faced by various communities in Myanmar.