MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan are extending grant assistance of $12 million for a community-driven project which will help some of Myanmar’s poorest rural communities break free from a vicious cycle of low income poverty and minimal opportunities.
“This investment in rural infrastructure and livelihoods services will have a significant multiplier effect on the income and quality of life in these communities,” said Pavit Ramachandran, Senior Environment Specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “Crucially, the villagers themselves will be the ones who will identify project activities, ensuring the full benefits reach the grassroots level.”
The grant, from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, will be administered by ADB.
The project aims to benefit at least 700,000 people in villages spanning four diverse geographical regions of the country – Ayeyarwady Delta, Central Dry Zone, Tanintharyi Region, and Shan State. These regions include some rural communities with poverty rates more than double the urban level. Rural poverty is typically driven by poor infrastructure, which undermines access to markets and services, and an absence of employment options beyond subsistence farming.
A community-driven development approach, successfully used by ADB in the Philippines and Indonesia, will be the key factor in empowering village groups to identify, plan, and prioritize their own priority needs to be drawn up in village development plans. Based on these plans, community block grants will be provided in tranches. Training will also be provided to open up new employment opportunities, which will include basic English skills to allow communities to tap into the country’s booming tourism market. The project will also incorporate local cash for work scheme, which will generate additional income for households.
Support will be given to improve village infrastructure like access roads, jetties, water and irrigation facilities, schools and community health centers, and to develop new income earning opportunities in areas such as fish, shrimp and pearl farming, livestock husbandry, and production of cash crops, including garlic and chilies. Assistance will also be given to set up a regular weekly community radio program for farmers, which will provide a platform for sharing best practices and for delivering up-to-date information about farm inputs and produce costs. The project will target no less than 40% of women in the village communities for leadership as well as membership in development planning, livelihood support, and capacity building.
A key performance target is to boost the incomes of villagers by at least 50% by 2020 from current levels. The project will run for four years with Government of Myanmar and target communities providing in-kind support of nearly $2 million for a total project cost of nearly $14 million.