Sunday, May 6, 2012

Last Day of Training in Yangon by Ruth Tshin

Sack garden demonstration

We concluded the last day of our seed saving training in Yangon on Friday.  Covering topics of how to store seeds, the importance of germination, and information management, we continued discussions with MBC staff and farmers about linkages between seed saving and sustainable thinking.  Kimberly shared findings from her year-long study of managing pests in stored seeds and I put on my plant biology hat to talk about seeds as living potential and various ways to test seed quality through germination and planting out in soil.  Attendees continued to share their methods for saving and testing seeds with the group.

There is a hunger for practical, income-generating techniques here in Myanmar and we're privileged to be working with MBC as they continue to promote sustainable approaches with their farmers.  
One of our attendees stores onion seeds by letting a candle extinguish inside a closed container to create a light vacuum.

Another Day of Seed Saving Training by Ruth Tshin

Taking notes during our lively discussion
Putting seeds on the screen to dry after cleaning
Today we had more lively discussions as workshop attendees talked about economic barriers to sustainable practices in their communities. Kim taught the difference between annual and perennial plants, the effects of day-length on growth and details of pollination.  In the afternoon, I led a discussion about cleaning and drying seeds before our whole group pitched in to clean seeds from local tomatoes, pumpkin, ivy gourd and wax gourd.   So far, we've collected up to 15 varieties of seed to plant out at the seedbank, including  corn, bean, and pumpkin from Kayah State, and red sesbania from the Irrawaddy Delta area.
Kimberly teaching about day length and pollination
All hands on deck for the seed cleaning demonstration

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Seed Saving Training with Myanmar Baptist Convention

By Ruth Tshin, Volunteer ECHO Asia Consultant
Ruth and ECHO Asia intern, Kimberly Duncan, are currently in Yangon, Myanmar conducting a workshop on seed saving.

Burmese farmers are heavily dependent on chemicals to meet market demands and there is little knowledge of chemical-free food production.
Celebrating 200 years in 2013, Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) has over 2 million members from 18 different language groups throughout the country.  The Christian Social Service and Development Department (CSSDD) functions like a development organization for its members, many of whom are farmers struggling to maintain their livelihoods amidst high chemical and hybrid seed costs.  As Burma continues to open up to the global market and respond to pressure from China, MBC's farmers need innovative methods to supplement their income.

In their efforts to continue developing their staff and members' understanding of sustainable farming practices, MBC graciously invited ECHO Asia to teach seed saving techniques at their headquarters in Yangon this week.  Today, we (Ruth Tshin and Kimberly Duncan) started off a 3 day training session listening to the challenges experienced in their communities.  16 men and 2 women from 5 areas of Myanmar, representing Pwo Karen, Sgaw Karen, Asho Chin, Southern Shan and Mon conventions, were in attendance.  We shared our successes producing open-pollinated seeds using natural methods, as well as lessons learned from our failures from the past 3 years.  Between bouts of power outages, we had lively conversation about local vegetables and seed prices, and ended the first day by distributing seeds from our seedbank.

One of the Karen CSSDD staff talks about challenges in his area
Talking about plants after we gave out our seeds