Since 1965, IRRI has been involved with Myanmar researchers, extension personnel, and farmers in introducing rice breeding material, hybrid rice technology, and locally adaptable designs for rice transplanters and threshers. The rice variety IR8 was introduced in Myanmar in 1967. It was called Ya Gyaw, meaning “more than a hundred.”
In May 2015, the Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy was launched at the Department of Agricultural Research, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
Former IRRI director general Dr. Robert Chandler was invited to visit Myanmar in 1968. This started the exchange of scientists between Myanmar and IRRI that continued over the years. In 1975, Dr. Kaung Zan, general manager of the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI), became a member of the IRRI Board of Trustees (BOT) and served the board from 1975 to 1977.
Technical relations were formalized in 1977 when the Myanmar Agriculture Service (MAS) and IRRI signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that opened the way for the two phases of the IRRI-Burma Cooperative Project (1981-1985), and Myanmar (formerly Burma)-IRRI Farming Systems Project. These projects were for varietal improvement, rice farming systems, the development of small-scale farm implements, and training through degree and non-degree programs. This was funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (1979-1989) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) (1989-present).
In 1993, the operating plan for a new Myanmar-IRRI Upland Farming Systems Project was signed by Dr. Mya Maung, managing director of MAS, and Dr. Klaus Lampe, then IRRI director general. It was jointly funded by MAS, IDRC, and IRRI. The two-year project was for research on low-cost, sustainable, rice-based farming systems in the hilly regions of the country.
In 1994 to 1995, the German Freedom from Hunger Campaign provided additional support for improving farming systems’ productivity and sustainability in the uplands. The Government of Myanmar recognized IRRI as an international organization through its Ambassador to the Philippines in 1997.
MAS and IRRI signed the Myanmar-IRRI Work Plan Agreement for collaborative research activities from 1997 to 2000. These activities included genetic resource use, agricultural mechanization, integrated pest and disease management, community-based natural resource management, geographic information systems, and training. In 2003, MAS and IRRI again signed an agreement for collaboration in agricultural research and training covering 2003-2006.
In 2008, IRRI came to Myanmar's aid to post-Cyclone Nargis. The Institute's scientists helped Myanmar authorities draw plans to increase rice production amid devastation from the cyclone.
The ADB-funded IRRI postharvest project conducted a training program on postharvest technologies in 2012. This program ensured the sustainability and success of the dryer technology that is being rapidly adopted in both Cambodia and Myanmar.
On 5 December 2013, Myanmar President U Thein Sein, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation U Myint Hlaing, and other members of the president's cabinet came to IRRI to discuss stronger Myanmar-IRRI partnership in rice research.
In March and November 2014, village-level learning alliance meetings where key stakeholders learned to use new technologies and reduce postharvest losses, were held.
The Government of Myanmar tapped IRRI for technical assistance for the development and implementation of the Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy (MRSDS), launched in 20 May 2015. The MRSDS will serve as a guide for stakeholders to revitalize the country's rice sector and for Myanmar to regain its preeminent role in the global rice market.
Current research and development with Myanmar
- Consortium for Unfavorable Rice Environments or CURE (supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development)
- Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprint or CORIGAP (supported by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation)
- Livelihood and Food Security Trust (through the United Nations Office for Project Services)
- Major donors include the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and the United States Agency for International Development
Intensifying rice-based systems. This ACIAR-funded project involves research on cropping options that will increase and sustain the productivity of cropping systems used.
Improving postharvest technologies. The solar bubble dryer, launched commercially in 2014, uses the sun's energy even during the night or under overcast skies and is a portable alternative for drying grains.
Improving the livelihoods of rice-farming rural households. Village-level multistakeholder platforms formed in Maubin and Bogale villages have brought various stakeholders together to improve quality of grain and link farmers to better markets.
Reducing risks and improving livelihoods. The Myanmar National Seed Committee registered Swarna-Sub1 (local name Yemyoke khan saba), the first flood-tolerant rice variety in March 2013. Salt-tolerant rice variety Sangankhan Sinthwelatt was also released the same year.
Improving access of farmers to stress-tolerant rice varieties and high-quality seeds. This USAID-funded project involves farmers in testing and selecting rice varieties suitable for stress-prone areas through participatory varietal selection, and focuses in organizing and training farmers in producing high-quality seeds.
Rice sector strategy
The Government of Myanmar launched the Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy (MRSDS) on 20 May 2015 at Yezin Agricultural University in Nay Pyi Taw.
The MRSDS will guide the MoAI and other ministries on policies and actions for food security and economic growth that is based on rice sector growth and exports. The strategy will also serve as the reference document for the international community's efforts to assist in Myanmar's agricultural development and food security programs and investments.
Myanmar CSA Strategy
The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) and IRRI facilitated and supported the first national consultation meeting on “Climate-smart agriculture in Myanmar” in 2013, on which climate change adaptation and mitigation frameworks and strategies around CSA were comprehensively discussed and crafted. The activity resulted in the Myanmar CSA Strategy report, which covers the development of technical, policy, and investment conditions to achieve sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition through climate-resilient agriculture.
Rice diversity and better varieties shared
As of May 2015, a total of 74 rice varieties suited to different ecosystems have been released in Myanmar. Of these, 34 are direct releases from the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) – a network for sharing rice breeding material led by IRRI - and 15 are derived from INGER materials. INGER has provided more than 25,000 rice types of rice to Myanmar’s national breeding program, which in turn is contributing advanced breeding lines to INGER.
Since 2015, about 130 tons of seeds of stress-tolerant varieties were shared with some 17,000 farmers to help them cope with the effects of climate change.
New rice varieties developed
The rice variety Yar9 (IR55423-01) is now ready for release in water-short areas in Myanmar and the rice variety, Swarna-Sub 1 that is suited to flood-prone areas is being evaluated in farmers' fields. Potential varieties with salt-tolerance are also being evaluated.
Postharvest technologies adopted
Partnerships with the private sector have resulted in the installation of more than 300 dryers across Myanmar. About 35,000 farmers benefit from these dryers, the use of which result in better grain quality that commands higher market prices.
In 2007, IRRI invited Myanmar public and private counterparts to participate in a dryer manufacturing training at Nong Lam University in Ho Chi and Minh City, Vietnam. Successively, MRPTA and the Pioneer Postharvest Development Group have installed 330 flat bed dryers, Other manufacturers have made at least 200 copies of these as well. Current activities focus on the introduction of an improved dryer, demonstration of combine harvesting and on further introduction of air-tight storage.
Improved crop management
Our work in Myanmar involved improvement of crop establishment, nutrition and productivity, weed control, rodent research, water saving (alternate wetting and drying or AWD) and aerobic rice. Since 2006, 33 sites have been implemented with AWD and 18 sites with aerobic rice testing. IRRI has also trained and conducted on-site briefings with 180 staff and 480 farmers.
Surveyed rural households
IRRI has collected information on knowledge, attitudes and practices, and input-output data, for the management of nutrients, water, crop establishment, weeds and rodents, and postharvest issues in three localities in Ayeyarwaddy delta in 2006. These data will help researchers understand grassroots trends and farmer behaviors.
IRRI has provided training to more than 440 agricultural scientists and extension workers from Myanmar. A total of 70 IRRI scholars came from Myanmar from 1969 to February 2011. Some 39 Myanmar scholars got a master’s degree, 12 were PhD scholars and 23 were on-the-job trainees. A total of 315 participants from Myanmar attended IRRI’s short-term courses from 1966 to February 2011.
Many alumni of IRRI's training programs now hold key positions in Myanmar's agricultural agencies.
Myanmar has 53.9 million people and harvests 8 million hectares of rice annually (FAO via World Rice Statistics). In 2010, production was approximately 33 million tonnes (FAO via WRS), of which about 1 million is exported. It is an agricultural country with rice as the staple food crop, yet rice yields are lower in Myanmar than in many other Asian countries. Rice is often grown in rotation with legumes and other crops. Also, considerable potential exists for diversification of rice-based cropping systems with other crops.
The major rice-producing regions are in the delta, including Ayeyarwady, Pegu, Yangon, and Mon State. These four areas make up more than half of the monsoon crop. Myanmar's major rice ecosystems include rain-fed lowland rice, deep-water submerged rice, irrigated lowland rice, and rain-fed upland rice.
Traditional rice cultivation methods in Myanmar are divided into two categories: dry upland and wet cultivation. The dry upland cultivation methods generally practiced on wooded hillsides are typical slash and burn methods used for subsistence production. The area of traditional (Taungya) shifting cultivation on hillsides has been declining and is being replaced by a dryland crop rotation system with a much shorter fallow period.
The membership of Myanmar in the workgroup ‘Productivity and Sustainability’ of the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC) has enabled research and extension workers in Myanmar to benefit from the wealth of knowledge on past and ongoing activities on site-specific nutrient management in Asia.
IRRI Representative for Myanmar
Dr. Madonna Casimero (For projects)
Ms. Ohnmar Tun
Seed Division Compound
Myanma Agriculture Service (MAS)
Gyogon-Insein, Yangon, Myanmar
Tel: +95 1663590
You may also view IRRI's YouTube playlist about Myanmar.
Media release and news items
- Rice-based cropping system project in Myanmar makes significant contribution to local agriculture
- Rice Science Academy conducts training on reducing postharvest losses
- Women rice farmers: Myanmar’s next seed growers?
- More Asian rice farmers to benefit from CORIGAP technologies
- Smallholder farmers develop business models for postharvest services
- Myanmar recognizes IRRI’s contribution to the country’s rice sector development
Rice Today features
- Myanmar partners produce high-yielding salinity-tolerant rice varieties
- Myanmar rises (Rice Today January-March 2014)