Daw Thin Thin Aye (36 years old) is a seasonal flower planter who lives in Hmawbi Township, about three hours away from Myanmar’s capital city Yangon. Their cottage lies in the middle of a two acre field of flowers where she lives with her husband Aung Soe Moe (50 years old), and three children. Their youngest is still in school while the other two support the family business.
“Every morning, I wake up at 4 AM to cook rice. After that, we get ready to water the flowers. My husband and two children pick the water pipes up and water each flower patch. No one needs to be reminded about this. It’s our daily routine," Daw Thin Thin Aye explains.
Daw Thin Thin Aye is always active, working in the flowers fields every day; from planting to harvesting. She had already planted 20,000 seedlings of chrysanthemum flowers in the two acre field and some of them were ready to be transported to the flower market in Yangon. But the flower planting business has not always been their primary occupation.
Ten years ago, Daw Thin Thin Aye and her husband used to cultivate seasonal crops such as onions, potatoes and chili on an islet near Yaysakyoe, Ayeyawady River. Unfortunately, their plantations were destroyed by floods that made the land unsuitable to cultivate again. They lost everything that they had invested in their cultivation and struggled to recover from the disaster.
“One of my sisters asked me to move to Hmawbi and to grow seasonal flowers on some land that she owned. We didn’t have any other option. So, we agreed to move to Yangon,” she revealed.
The new life in Yangon was a challenge for traditional farmers like Daw Thin Thin Aye and they struggled at the beginning of their flower planting. Even though they worked hard, the lack of manpower, machines and good fertilizer brought about little profit each month, barely enough to cover their living expenses.
Their eldest children, Shwe Sin Oo and Aung Naing Thu were still studying in high school at the time. When it came to a point where their parents were unable to support their education, the two children left school at grade 11 in order to help in the flower business.
In 2013, Daw Thin Thin Aye heard about VisionFund Myanmar’s (VFM) microfinance services. She took an agriculture loan on a six month loan term, and since then, has been able to gradually expand the flower business.
“I started my business by growing 10,000 seedlings of chrysanthemums and sky star flowers. Later, I expanded to 30,000 and now grow up to 40,000 seedlings with my current (ninth) loan,” she says, proud to share about the transformation of her business.
Last year, she was able to earn 3.5 million Kyat (2,500$) as net profit from selling chrysanthemums and sky star flowers. She was able to purchase spraying equipment for pest control and also build a small grocery shop in front of their home. She also became co-owner of the two acre field by working together with her sister.
“This year we expect to grow a 100,000 flower seedlings on the two acre field. This evening, we are going to plant over 10,000 Sky Star flowers which costs a total of 65,000 Kyat. For the Chrysanthemums, it costs 600,000 Kyat for 10,000 seedlings and they have the potential to get a good profit unless the weather damages them,” Daw Thin Thin Aye said.
Daw Thin Thin Aye connected with three flower dealers who were able to pay them more than what they earned at the Yangon flower market. But, she still continued to sell some of her flowers at the market as well, in order to be able to save some extra money for her family.
“We have a plan to build a new house before the next year’s monsoon season. There are a lot of things we want to do, but our priority is to own a better house and get a meter box to access electricity as this will be better for the water pump and cost less that running on expensive diesel,” she explained.
She has one other important plan - she wants her youngest son, Zaw Wai Yan (7 years) to become educated, because her two eldest children were unable to finish school due to their financial difficulties.
“It has been over 5 years since we started working together with VisonFund and we are well pleased with the services. We gained a lot of micro-financial support to settle well in a new place, as well as, to strengthen our flower planting business. We have already decided to apply for an individual agriculture loan in future. ”