San San Hla. Photo:  Ye Aung Thu/AFP

San San Hla. Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP

Myanmar farmers going against the grain with apps

Monday February 19th, 2018

AFP, for Mizzima

A free app on farmer San San Hla's smartphone is her new weapon in the war against the dreaded stem borer moth that blighted her rice paddy in southern Myanmar for the last two years.

As she watches her workers haul in this year's harvest, the 35-year-old is in a triumphant mood, ascribing her victory over the seasonal scourge to advice received via the app about effective pesticide use.

"We used to just farm the way our parents showed us," she told AFP, in her village of Aye Ywar west of Yangon.

"But after getting the app, I now see how we should be doing it... it's better to use proper techniques rather than just working blindly."

San San Hla is among a growing cohort of farmers who are turning to tech to address the knowledge gap in a country where two thirds of the workforce are employed in agriculture.

The sector accounts for some 28 percent of the country's GDP, but yields are low with farmers cut-off from modern technology under decades of isolationist junta rule.

For people like San San Hla apps could be the answer.

New tech is not best suited to struggling farmers at the bottom of the ladder. They do not have the time or resources to implement advice on changing seeds or fertiliser.

Instead, the apps are aimed at smallholder farmers to allow them to become a little more commercial
— Erwin Sikma, Founder & CEO Impact Terra