Mingalaba (hello) everyone,
I am currently interning at the Network Activities Group (NAG), a local NGO located in Yangon, Myanmar. I have been with NAG for about a month and I am enjoying the project I am involved in. I am working on the Community-led Coastal Management in the Gulf of Mottama (CLCMGoM) project, specifically on co-management. Co-management is flexibility and cooperative management of resources by the community civil society and the government. Thus, the responsibilities of the resources, decision-making, implementations and policies should be shared between the government, civil society and most importantly the community.
This project has diverse partnerships from various sectors, such as the government, universities, private business sectors, NGOs, conservation organizations, and the communities. By working together will help strengthen the goals for this project.
The main purpose of the project is to address current disparities in coastal fishing communities and to increase their livelihoods through sustainable fishing practices in the Gulf of Mottama. There are three main goals for the CLCMGoM project:
1. Improve sustainable fisheries management in the Gulf of Mottama through value chain approach and equitable market access
2. Improve access to non-fisheries resources, such as agriculture to increase livelihoods of coastal communities.
3. Improve protection of special habitats of the Gulf of Mottama through scientific knowledge and public awareness.
I thought I use this platform to discuss one of the important workshops I attended for the CLCMGoM project on October 22, 2016. It was a consultation workshop on land erosion issues on Sittuang River in the Bago region, and participants included, government officials, CLCMGoMP team members, Land Core Group, and the local communities from the Kawa and Thannatpin townships. The land erosion is one of the biggest threats (along with illegal fishing) to most coastal communities, which is affecting the livelihoods of the people in the Bago region.
Google map of Gulf of Mottama.
The Minister of the Natural and Environmental Conservation and Forestry in the Bago region, U Kyaw Min Zan, addressed the importance of preventing land erosion through collaborative work between the community, the government and civil society. He strongly believes in community-based approach to prevent land erosions that are affecting the livelihoods of the people.
U Daw Nyi Nyi Aung is the Director of the Department of Environmental Conservation in the Bago region and she addressed how global warming is a major threat to our world, especially melting of the ice caps that cause flooding and land erosions. She also mentioned that it is not only natural disasters causing land erosions, but land mining and sand digging are also major contributors to land erosions.
The Director of the Department of Forestry, U Zaw Win Myint, emphasized the importance of mangrove forests in the riverbanks because they will help prevent land erosion and also provide good habitats for fish species.
U Shwe Thein is the Land Core Group leader and he stressed the importance of finding the root causes of riverbank erosions because it is affecting the livelihoods of the people and the economy. In order to better understand these root causes, more knowledge is required on natural habitats and land infrastructures.
This workshop provided a platform for the communities to work together to create a list of land erosion prone villages and to formulate priority list for villages that are currently affected (please see picture below). This empowers the communities to work together and to find effective solutions that work for their community. I was very moved by this whole processes because it provided communities to have a voice and strengthed their own relationship with other villages.
Workshop in Waw Township: The community members from various villages discussing land erosion and creating a priority list for villages that are affected by land erosion.
Everyone agreed that community involvement and participation is very important factor when it comes to protecting their livelihoods and the environment. I also believe that it is very important to empower the community and to provide better information on their rights to resources. For the most part, I’ve found that there is always a lack of communication between the government and the community (no matter where you are), but this is slowly changing. The CLCMGoM project through co-management is trying to bridge this gap by collaboration of the government, civil society and the community.
Prior to this workshop, I was invited with Kenneth MacKay to travel to some of the coastal fishing villages in the Bago region and in Mon State to talk to the villagers about their fishing history, fishing practices, gender equality and major issues the village is facing. I assisted Kenneth with data collections for the co-management part of the CLCMGoM project.
Project village: Aung Kan Thar in Mon State with local villagers, John Kurien (consultant), Nalini Nayak (consultant), Tint Wai (IUCN) and me.
At first I was unsure of what my role was with this project, but as weeks go by my role is becoming clearer. My role is to collect indigenous fishing knowledge and customary practices. What is most important to me is to build rapport with the people in the project villages because it is important to gain respect and build trust with each other. This approach will provide better interaction and understanding of their cultural practices; therefore collect detailed qualitative data.
I am very grateful for meeting people from various villages. Even though we may not speak the same language, laughter and smiles do go a long way. I feel very privileged to be part of a project that allows me to learn from the locals and experience various cultures.