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November 12, 2019

Chin State attempts to revitalize agriculture with six main crops

  • By News Team (Chin State IPRD)
Traditional hill-side farming is the mainstay of the Chin State’s economy. Photo: Chin State IPRD (News Team)

The denizens of Chin State are putting all their efforts into developing their agriculture. They are implementing a three-year project to improve their agricultural practices and produce as they toil away in the harsh weather and steep cliffs of their hometowns. The State Agriculture Department said they managed to elevate all six sectors within the first year of the project’s implementation.

Selecting the six crops
Chin State has a lot of vacant, wild plots of land but since they don’t have many flatlands the locals mainly plant rice and maize, a staple of the region, and only a handful of oil-producing crops and other crops for household use.
State Agriculture Department head U Lin Myat says they have elevated the agricultural sector since last year. He said the current land status has not brought in many farmers yet. He said they selected six crops suitable for the region and are working towards enabling everyone to plant them and to increase their production.

Hope comes in coffee
Chin State has chosen coffee as its main crop and locals say the famous Hakha Coffee is quite successful. They say consumers love the coffee powder produced from Hakha due to its longlasting charming aroma and superb taste.
U Lin Myat tells us that Chin State’s wine is as well known as its coffee production. He says farmers as far as Tiddim plant coffee but there is a lack of systematic cultivation. Nevertheless, coffee from Hakha and Tiddim draw in a lot of customers and this is why locals are trying harder than ever to increase its production.

Beauty & the avocado
Avocados were once only grown for home consumption but have been selected in the six crop varieties. The Agriculture Department is working to provide farmers with quality avocado seeds, agricultural methods, packaging and distribution systems. They are also enlisting assistance from agricultural organizations and those that provide help to farmers.
Hakha’s Kyaaw Bote Horticultural Garden caretaker U Byat Nawn Mahn says: “Production numbers are still low. Our farmers are not like the ones from the flatlands. We can’t predict or make expectations of the weather here so our farmers get tired both physically and mentally more easily. But ever since avocado began to be used as a base in cosmetics, there has been an increase in interested farmers.”

Mulberry
The agricultural department is also revamping the mulberry cultivation once prominent in Chin State. They are helping farmers regain good crop seeds and larvae. Chin State was once called the silk capital but due to various reason, the cultivation of the plants and the silkworms declined.
There is a modern factory in Tiddim and the department is encouraging local farmers to take up the trade once more. They are teaching them how to properly rear the silkworms and produce silk.
Rise of elephant foot yam
Elephant foot yam is known colloquially as ‘wa-u’ and is mainly exported to China. Farmers are hoping to make production and distribution of the crop a successful business.
Most places have machines to dry the yams but can’t produce them as powder grains yet. To address this issue, a public company was formed with farmers as the majority. They have opened a factory and will work towards producing powdered yams. Locals think this will also support the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector.
The Agriculture Department has given trainings courses, planting techniques and disease prevention for crops to the farmers, who were formerly employing traditional methods. This has produced good momentum in the project’s first year but not quite reached the objective yet.
U Lin Myat explains that elephant foot yam was always cultivated in Chin State but production had significantly increased since last year. He said it’s good income, so there can be challenges when everyone is selling it. He says planting a 25 Kyattha (408g) variety produces about a viss to a viss and a half. This can cause the crop to become rare.
U Lin Myat says they are using three methods to ensure good quality breed of elephant foot yams. He said their headquarters has successfully grown elephant foot yams using tissue culture technology. The second method is replanting shoots and the third involves the department planting yams in small acres on their ten farms in Chin State.
Chin grapes, oranges, apples
The grapes in Chin State are grown almost exclusively for wine brewing. Chin oranges used to be quite popular and farmers are attempting to replant them in large quantities. In addition to oranges, mulberries and grapes, Chin State also produced good quality apples. But the weak market economy reduced the prosperous agriculture industry into its current state.
Most of the farming in Chin State is done on its steppes and cliff sides, making it hard to calculate plantation acres. U Lin Myat says cultivation has slowly risen, though it’s not at the same level it used to be.
He said the varied assistance from the government and other related organizations has made it the perfect time to revitalize Chin State’s agriculture sector. All it needs now is the continued endeavor of its farmers. He said the biggest challenge is training the farmers to be able to produce high-quality finished goods as those are the ones that will penetrate the market.
U Lin Myat said they have signed an MoU with China to export US$5 million worth of elephant foot yam from Chin State. He said this is only for the dried yams but they will gain additional income if they can produce the powder product.
He said they are also willing to increase the production of mulberry as it produces more than one product, including textiles, wine and silkworms. He said local farmers are making more than just silk as they use the cocoons to make keychains as well. He said they will also try to produce fruit juice from oranges.
U Lin Myat said the government is providing a lot of support and they need more investments, technology, and logistics to make their plans come to fruition.
He says the greatest enemy for their crops comes during the cold months of December – frostbite. This is why they need to select crops that are suitable for their region and climate. I always tell the farmers and associations that the fate of Chin State’s development rests in our youth’s hands, said U Byat Nawn Mahn.
There is usually just one pesticide store in each township and people usually use organic fertilizers such as tobacco and extracted chilli juice. The crops selected for Chin State usually take more than a year to cultivate.
Coffee plants require three years, elephant foot yam requires a year and a half, avocado takes three years and mulberry needs just two years to cultivate their goods.
While the unfavorable terrain and peculiar weather make it somewhat difficult to revamp the agricultural sector, Chin State farmers are hopeful their combined efforts with the government and relevant organizations will help realize their dreams of making the state’s agriculture prosperous again.

(Translated by Pen Dali)

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