What I Learnt in Myanmar | Lisa CHAI

[ ‘SHARE’ Jan-Feb 2013 – Green Notes Or Green Life? ] CEDAR’S BLOGGER


Author> Lisa CHAI, Senior Programme Officer

In September I joined a CEDAR sponsored agricultural training on Sustainable Agriculture based on Christian holistic development. At the end of the six-day training, I realised participants benefited not only in learning different techniques like making Effective Microorganism (EM), but most importantly, our trainer has given participants hope and an outlook of an improved life despite the difficult circumstances faced by many.

Many of the ethnic peoples living on the mountains are very poor and struggle tremendously. A Lisu pastor shared that this training has provided a way and a chance for them to improve. Before the training, villagers thought a large investment is always needed to raise animals and often farming activities. They saw what other farmers did and wanted to follow yet many of Lisu people are poor, the fear of not having investment inputs deterred them. However, our trainer taught us simple techniques and gave such straightforward instructions that they can all follow to start with a small plot which requires very little financial investment, thus giving them hope of change.

Over 25 participants from several states attended. They were rice farmers from lowland, church workers from arid dry zone, village leaders from conflict resettlement area, church pastors from mountain region. One trainee is a youth pastor from a dry, dusty, poorly developed area. Just imagine, I was told there you would see peacocks walking alongside rickety vehicles…. it is a land quite wild!  Water scarcity is a daily challenge. During summer time, local people can only afford to use 3 cupfuls to clean themselves. The community wants to widen and deepen the existing lake to collect rain water. I do not know if this is the best way to solve the water crisis; however I can see this youth pastor is full of passion, to give ’living water’ in terms of meeting community’s survival needs and spiritual nourishment.

It is a reminder to me that we purposely need to act in the context of holistic development to see how project activities and people involved contribute towards extension of the Kingdom of God. For a road construction project, development workers naturally think of easier access to market, more trade, better livelihoods.  Yet from the words of this same youth pastor, it also means isolation broken is down, easy access by evangelists to result in the spread of the gospel.

Christian development is more than secular development theories and concepts. Sustainable agriculture is not just about applying principles of ecology. Natural farming is more than bringing the soil and environment back to its original form. It is about God’s creation and our stewardship over the environment. It is about ruling over the earth that reflects God’s character….certainly I look forward to taking more lessons in future!