YANGON, MYANMAR — Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are supporting a project that aims to scale up incomes and new employment opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs selling crafts and local food to tourists and residents in four townships in Mon state—Chaungzon Island, Kyaikto, Mawlamyine and Mudon. These four towns lie on the Greater Mekong Subregion East-West Economic Corridor, linking Myanmar to Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.
A $3 million Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction grant, administered by ADB, will finance work skills training, help develop business management capabilities, provide links to suppliers and microfinance providers, and support a custom-built public market facility in Mawlamyine and a processing center in Kyaikto.
“In Mon state 55% of the population is self-employed with a large number of families selling agricultural products and crafts but these small businesses are having a limited impact on reducing household poverty,” said Uzma Hoque, Senior Social Development Specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “The project aims to identify new craft and food product lines, provide the technical, business and management skills to exploit them, and help small businesses, particularly those run by women and the poor, access affordable credit and link to new markets, giving incomes a substantial lift.”
Tourism in Mon state offers substantial opportunities with the Golden Rock Pagoda in Kyaikto being one of the top visitor destinations in the country. But a lack of product knowledge, management skills and access to technology for small businesses hampers their ability to take full advantage of this fast growing industry. As a result of limited opportunities at home, many Myanmar nationals migrate to nearby Thailand for work, leaving them exposed to human trafficking and other dangers. A key element of the project is giving new entrepreneurial opportunities to households as an alternative to migration, and for returnees and “left behind” families of migrants.
The physical component of the project will include a market facility and a processing center, both of which will be operated under public-private community partnership models to promote local ownership. The market will provide an outlet for local crafts, while the processing center will provide a suitable space for hygienic processing, packaging and distribution of foods and handicrafts to traders. A vendor association at the market will be established to enhance the bargaining power of women and poor producers.
The project aims to provide livelihood opportunities for 900 households across 12 villages in the four townships. Sixty percent of project beneficiaries will be women. The project is expected to provide a model that can be scaled up and replicated in other parts of the country.
Along with ADB’s assistance, the Government of Myanmar and communities will provide support equivalent to about $450,000. The project will run for about 4 years with an expected completion date of end-December, 2019.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.