In any industry, information serves a vital role. It is through information that technologies and techniques are shared, enabling the people working in the industry to produce the expected output.
A good number of the agricultural projects in Myanmar focus on providing inputs and improving agricultural infrastructure support. But there are also activities that are geared to promoting and enhancing information and knowledge sharing on agriculture, a clear evidence of the recognition of the value of knowledge in improving agricultural performance. One such initiative is the Food Security Working Group’s (FSWG) Regional Resource Centers.
At first glance, one might think of the centers as structures built for housing farm equipment and inputs for common use of the farmers. Others might probably think of it as a place where activities promoting food security are held. In a way it comes close, but the centers are more than just venues for trainings.
“The regional resource centers are knowledge hubs where people can get information and learn more about food security and agriculture,” Dr Ohnmar Khaing, FSWG’s Coordinator explains. “It is intended as a facility for knowledge-sharing. It has a library, computers, and can also be used as venue for meetings and learning and sharing sessions.”
The organization has already set up food security centers in Pyapon Township, Ayeyarwady Region, and in Magway in the dry zone. This year, FSWG is looking at setting up centers in Southern Shan and Chin states. After that FSWG hopes to expand to all states and regions of Myanmar.
The centers are also physical, tangible manifestationsof FSWG’s strong link with regional groups and partners. Dr. Khin Pa Pa Wei, project manager at FSWG, explained that the resource centers are collaborations of FSWG with partner organizations. “Partners and regional sub-groups set up the center, they manage it with community volunteers, and FSWG provides the monthly rental and some other expenditures, facilities and materials.” In this way, resource-sharing is enhanced among the organizations to deliver maximum benefits.
Remaining true to the ideals of open learning, the centers are for public use especially by farmers seeking to learn agricultural technologies, and community organizations working on various food security and agriculture projects.
Myanmar’s food security centers are only one of the many other initiatives that seek to promote knowledge sharing on agriculture and food security in the Lower Mekong and, on a larger scale, the ASEAN region. On one side of the spectrum are the wide array of trainings and short courses offered by agricultural institutions for extension workers and agriculture specialists, and on the other are the scores of farmer field schools and field demonstrations for farmers.
But the challenge to further enhance knowledge-sharing and provide learning opportunities for boosting agricultural production remains. As Southeast Asia gears up for the start of the ASEAN Integration this year, countries are called on to open not just border gates but also break down invisible walls that limit the sharing of agricultural knowledge among countries and communities. There are high hopes that the food security centers in Myanmar will usher in and inspire more similar efforts to enhance learning and knowledge-sharing on agriculture.