Let me introduce you NEED and the Agriculture Training program’s first generation of leaders. NEED stands for Network for Environmental and Economic Development and is a not-for-profit organization that started 7 years ago in Chiang Mai (Thailand) and now it is expanding to Myanmar. Each year a group of students will enrol in this 10-month program to learn through nature, become community leaders and receive training on Land, Law & Economics.
Students are divided into groups and each day they have different tasks, although they all start their day with some very early morning exercise. They are all from different states, ethnic groups and religions. The respect they have for each other and their ability to work as a team is inspiring.
NEED’s main goals are the promotion of environmental conservation, sustainable agricultural, and economic development in Myanmar. The students have been working on different ideas to implement in their own villages once they finish the training. In the picture Khin Mar Htay pumps water from the well to water the crops.
This foundation wants to serve as a centre of organic food, sustainable agriculture, farm networking and natural building; becoming an international example of sustainable village level development. Al Ye’ Win Naung is watering the crops as the morning mist creates a beautiful background.
Students learn with Khaing Dhu Wan (Founder and Executive Director) about seed saving, one of the main activities of the program. In this picture you can see the students replanting the seedlings that they have been growing.
The students are also tasked with designing their own arrangements of different plants so they can study their behaviour when sharing the same space and sources.
Cooking is another of the daily group activities. They use the organic vegetables that they grow and supplement this with produce that they buy from neighbouring farms, contributing also to the community development. It’s amazing to see them cooking on a fire in the traditional way. It’s always fun to share a table with them!
Johanna teaches English and students love her. They were a little shy when I first met them but their confidence grew and they soon enjoyed practising their English with a foreigner. They are very curious to know about your personal life and the cultural differences between Myanmar and other countries.
Natural mud-brick building is another of the main activities of the program where they learn the whole process from making the mud to actually build a house. As you can see in this picture, no task is too challenging and they are always singing, smiling and dancing! :)
Making mud-bricks is a very hard task but it’s very rewarding for them to see the house that they have built in just a few months using only natural resources. Naw Phaw Ka Paw is using the mould to make bricks.
Next year instead of 25 students the program will accept 40, in big part because of this house that the first class have built. This is an amazing achievement that all future students will be very grateful of.
By promoting the use of traditional knowledge for conservation, NEED is encouraging grassroots people to challenge the current agricultural and farming development path which is unsustainable and harmful to local biodiversity.
Khin Zar Htay shows all the potatoes they have collected and will use to make a delicious curry :)
Computer skills are also taught and every evening they have some homework to do. This is all very new for them and a big challenge but they are so interested in learning that they always want more. They really appreciate international volunteers who come to share knowledge and spend some time with them.
The staff do a very important job helping Khaing Dhu Wan. They are all past students from the program in Thailand and they are very good mentors for the students. After a hard day of work, they usually play “chinlon” together. Chinlon is “Myanmar’s traditional football” as they say. A lot of fun! ;)
The graduation day was an event I will never forget. It was amazing to see how happy the students and Khaing Dhu Wan were! I was part of the jury to choose the best three projects from the nine different groups. They made Powerpoint presentations and did a great job explaining them in English! In this picture Johanna is announcing the prizes.
Here Khaing Dhu Wan is giving a diploma to Pyae Sone Aung. So proud of all of them!
Time to celebrate!!! And me… speechless! I felt so fortunate to be there. The students were singing and dancing songs from the different regions as well as one that they had written and composed themselves, “The tear of departing”, which was very emotional!
Thank you Khaing Dhu Wan for your amazing hospitality and for giving these students a great opportunity and future! For NEED contact details click here: website / facebook page. If you would like to visit the farm and help students by sharing your knowledge or through donations you can also send an email to Khaing Dhu Wan ([email protected])
Extra picture: Panoramic view of the farm and the students involved in morning activities. Click to enlarge.