A study visit on best Alternative Development (AD) practice between Thailand and Myanmar brought positive results, as a follow-up workshop showed. Participants appreciated the valuable exchange and lessons learned for their future contribution to AD in both countries.
In November 2017, government representatives from Myanmar participated in a study visit on best practice on Alternative Development (AD) in Thailand, organised jointly by the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD) and the Thai Mae Fah Luang Foundation (MFLF). In order to assess whether participants translated the key learnings into their work, GPDPD and MFLF invited them to a follow-up workshop in Myanmar in February 2018.
The overall feedback showed that the study visit benefited the participants’ work on AD, and that some could already transfer that knowledge into action. The Myanmar representatives most frequently mentioned the ongoing baseline survey initiated by the government of Myanmar on an AD project in Naung Tayar, Southern Shan State. The survey methodologies and content were adapted from models presented and discussed during the study visit. At present, the data analysis is underway and will be utilised as a basis for future activity planning.
The Naung Tayar Subtownship comprises 97 villages, grouped into four administrative village tracts, and belongs to the Pa-O self-governing zone. It was selected as a pilot area by the Myanmar AD Committee, which acts under leadership of the Ministry of Border Affairs, and will be running from 2017-2019. The main challenges in the area are poverty, a lack of basic health care and education, and a lack of infrastructure such as road and telecommunication networks. This context made opium poppy cultivation a viable livelihood option.
“We realised after the study visit that forest reservation and land ownership are crucial issues for Alternative Development. At present, the AD Committee has included the department of forestry and the department of land use at the national AD Committee level”, one participant said during the follow-up workshop. Up to then, the AD Committee consisted of ten different ministries and Pa-O representatives, the main ethnic group inhabiting the area of Naung Tayar.
Another participant stated that villagers’ participation is among the key success factors. “An indirect lesson I have learned is how to improve my communication techniques. Examples of tangible benefits should be presented clearly when we as government staff are trying to get villagers on-board for our AD programme.”
All participants agreed that the study visit provided them with a working tool for AD at ground level and encouraged a similar kind of exchange in the future. The follow-up workshop highlighted some current positive changes on the ground.
At the same time the Narcotics Law Amendment was launched on 14 February by the government, and a new national drug policy in Myanmar was introduced on 20 February 2018.