Smart design for a country in transition

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The looming economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to pull millions of Myanmar family farms – the backbone of the country’s economy - further into poverty and food insecurity. Proximity Designs has been serving Myanmar smallholder farmers for the past 16 years. Over the next four years, it aims to strengthen its model to create a nationwide platform providing an evolving menu of innovative essential products and services to small farmers, including farm technology, advice and finance. These services have a common goal of maximising small farm productivity, crop yields and family incomes in an environmentally sustainable way, while creating a well-functioning national small-farm ecosystem. By supporting small farmers with vital resources Proximity Designs aims to lift 800,000 farm families – almost 3.5 million women, men and children – out of poverty over the next four years.

Duration
2020-2023
Focus area
Sustainable Livelihoods and Ecosystems
country
Myanmar
partner
Proximity Designs

Context

Myanmar is an agrarian-based poor country where the global challenges of food production, inequality, climate change, conflict and environmental degradation all contribute to millions of small farmers living in poverty. Small farms are the backbone of the country’s economy and hold the key to reducing mass poverty and inequalities across the country. But today, the looming economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to pull millions of farm families further into deepening poverty and food insecurity.

Localised lockdowns, curfews and travel restrictions have disrupted farming. On-and-off trading post closures along the Myanmar-China border have caused crop prices to plunge as supplies accumulate at the border. Migrant workers have been forced to leave urban areas and neighbouring countries after losing their jobs in Yangon’s garment manufacturing factories or Thailand’s construction industry putting additional strain on rural communities.

Action

Proximity Designs has been serving Myanmar smallholder farmers for the past 16 years.

From 2018 to 2020, we supported its efforts to design, produce and market affordable and innovative irrigation technologies adapted to farmers needs in the country’s six main farming areas (Ayeyarwady Delta, Lower Myanmar, the Dry Zone and the Shan hills). .

Over the next four years, Proximity Designs aspires to reshape its until-now separate lines of operations –  farm technology, advisory services and finance support – and offer them as part of a nationwide platform that provides an evolving menu of innovative essential products and services to small farmers. They will invite external mission-aligned farm service providers to the platform, to offer farmers a curated range of services that far exceeds what is currently available to them. These services have a common goal of maximising small farm productivity, crop yields and family incomes in an environmentally sustainable way, while creating a well-functioning national small-farm ecosystem.

A blend of both physical and digital channels for promotion, sales and distribution activities will also be designed to respond effectively to shifting realities on the ground and the growing familiarity of Myanmar farmers with mobile technology.

Expected results

By providing small farmers with the support of vital resources, Proximity Designs aims to lift 800,000 farm families – almost 3.5 million women, men and children – out of poverty over the next four years.

Long-term strategy

As a social enterprise, Proximity Designs aims to achieve deep and sustainable large-scale impact while funding its own growth through earned revenue. It is aiming for 34% to 40% cost recovery through sales income over the next two years.