VisionFund Myanmar assists farmers to purchase machinery and equipment for agricultural purposes with the backing of the Livelihoods & Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT)
Collaborating with partners to create broader impact in communities has been and continues to be a significant attribute of VisionFund’s work across the globe, especially in efforts to reach agriculture-dependent families that have little access to financial services.
Coming home to Myanmar
Ma Ohn Mar (38 years old) has returned home after spending 10 years working in Bangkok in a weaving factory. She spent many hours walking between the machines and often thought of how she could return home – with all the miles she walked at work, she’s convinced she could have walked home.
For Ma Ohn Mar, home is a village in Hpa-an, the capital of the mountainous Kayin State, south of Myanmar. She and her husband had to move to Bangkok for work when some construction on a bridge in the village caused the water to overflow, destroying their land and making it unsuitable for cultivation. Their relatives in Bangkok helped them with the move to find work.
What made them come back? Their children.
Ma Ohn Mar and her husband Aye Min had to leave their son at home with his grandparents when he was just two and a half years old. When she was pregnant with their second child, Ma Ohn Mar returned to her village, but two and a half months after the birth of her daughter she had to return to Bangkok, leaving the baby with her parents.
Her son, Thy Ya Oo, is now 16 years old and has left school and her daughter, Thein Myat Noe Oo, is three years old and about to join pre-school.
“Our children were growing up and my parents needed help looking after them. We missed them and had to come back,” says Ma Ohn Mar. By the time the couple returned to Myanmar they had saved enough money to purchase four acres of land for growing vegetables and one and a half acres of land for growing rice.
During their time in Bangkok, Ma Ohn Mar had also sent money to her father to purchase land to start building a house. For Ma Ohn Mar and her husband it was wonderful to be home, to reunite with family and friends and, more importantly, their children.
But settling back to a life of farming in the scorching sun was not easy.
“It’s hard work and I sometimes feel like going back to work in Bangkok – but I was away from home for so long; I don’t want to leave again,” says her husband Aye Min. All their savings had been invested in cultivating the land and there was no immediate profit. One of their biggest expenses was the rental of a plough twice a year to prepare the soil for planting, costing them 800,000 kyats ($586). Neighbours told Ma Ohn Mar about VisionFund, and they were one of the first families to benefit from a newly introduced SSAT (Small Scale Agricultural Technologies) loan.
The loan was implemented with funding from the Livelihoods & Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) to help farmers purchase machinery and equipment for agricultural purposes.
With a loan of two million kyat ($1,465) they were able to purchase a hand plough which considerably increased their efficiency and removed the costs of a plough rental and the cost of extra help.
They would be able to pay back the loan in installments over a two year period.
“Other companies did not want to trust us with big loan amounts like this. We are happy with this arrangement and it’s a very good thing for farmers like us,” says Ma Ohn Mar.
VisionFund Myanmar in collaboration with the Livelihoods & Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) will continue to introduce innovative loan products to support struggling families like Ma Ohn Mar’s improve their livelihoods.
VisionFund operates 48 branches across Myanmar, 10 of which are supported by The Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) through World Vision. LIFT is managed by UNOPS and has been working in partnership with VisionFund Myanmar to increase access to affordable and sustainable financial services in four upland states of Myanmar.
Written by Megali Nanayakkara, Network Communications & Social Media Manager, VisionFund International