Farmers brace for financial ruin as 30,000 acres flood due to Mon State government’s mismanagement of irrigation system

June 29, 2019

More than 2,000 farmers from 11 villages in Paung Township have suffered considerable financial loss this rainy season as the mismanagement of an irrigation system set up by the Mon State Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) has resulted in the flooding of some 30,000 acres of farmland. The irrigation system is in place to support the expansion of the Mon State government’s “Summer Paddy Project,” an initiative that extends rice growing through the dry season.

From 2007 to 2015, farmers from Yin Nyein Taung, Twa Tan Shay, Phyu Ba, and Ka Toon villages farmed a total of 10,000 acres of summer paddy annually. Looking to increase yields, the Mon State government expanded the project to 16,973 acres in the 2016 – 2017 financial year. To provide the water needed, the Mon State government blocked streams to collect water, and developed an irrigation system to bring water to farms from the Ka Dike dam also located in Paung Township. However, ongoing mismanagement of the irrigation system has meant repeated flooding during the rainy season.

For the past three years, we have demanded that the [Mon State] government restore the previous irrigation system during our regular meetings with them about the Summer Paddy Project. The government must balance the amount of water in the dam with the acreage of the paddy fields we farm,” said U Khin Zaw, a farmer from Yin Nyein Taung village.

Between 2016 and 2018, farmers in Paung Township report that upwards of 70 percent of all nursery paddies sustained damage due to flooding each year. This year, farmers estimate that 95 percent of all nursery paddies have been damaged by flood waters. Nurseries are used to germinate seeds before they are transplanted to the main paddy field.

I sowed about 10 baskets [approximately 409.1 kgs] of seeds this month [June 2019], but we’ve had heavy rain and all of my nursery paddies flooded. I’ve invested 1.5 million kyats (US $987.97) of my own money, and that doesn’t include the cost of fertilizer or pesticide. I was able to recover some of my nursery paddies last year, but I’ve lost everything this year. The farmers here are facing incredible hardship because of the floods. I want the [Mon State] government to provide us with new seeds and fertilizer,” said Daw Phor Than, a local farmer.

Since January 2018, farmers in Paung Township have continued to report the flooding and the impact it has had on their livelihoods to the MOALI and the Water Utilization Management Department which falls under the purview of the MOALI, but have yet to receive any response.

When there is heavy rain our nursery paddies flood and we have to re-plant them. There is less production because of this, and the waters bring many pests,” said U Khin Zaw, a local farmer who lost some 613.65 kgs of seeds due to the floods.

Now, farmers in Paung Township are demanding the Mon State government to adjust and regulate the irrigation system currently in place, to re-introduce the previous irrigation system used to irrigate the Summer Paddy Project, and to arrange training workshops facilitated by agricultural experts for area farmers.

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