Livelihoods and Food Security in Rural Myanmar: Project overview

The background to this project lies in recent concerns over the pace of international progress in addressing food and nutrition insecurity. During the past decade, improvements in key nutritional indicators among rural populations have lagged other measures of social and economic progress in many developing countries (FAO, WFP & IFAD, 2012). Research from India – where this has certainly been the case (Pritchard et al., 2013) – has proposed that the root of this problem is an agriculture-nutrition disconnect (Gillespie et al, 2012). The argument is that as rural populations turn increasingly to non-agricultural sources of livelihood, including migration of various kinds and durations, their food and nutrition circumstances do not necessarily improve commensurately. To date, this issue has not been explored in the context of rural Myanmar.As Myanmar undergoes economic and political reform, insights into these questions have key relevance if policies for agriculture, land and natural resource planning are to be aligned with those for health, food and nutrition.The aim of this project is to generate new insights into the ways that nutrition outcomes relate to livelihood circumstances in rural Myanmar.

The project seeks to address this research task through a systematic analysis of a unique dataset collected from a first-of-a-kind survey with explanatory qualitative interviews in six Townships across three States/Regions in rural Myanmar. The project will:

  • Address critical questions about food and nutrition insecurity in Myanmar by generating dietary and anthropometric data from our survey sample;
  • Assess these data against household indicators to propose an explanation of the socio-economic patterns of food and nutrition insecurity in rural Myanmar;
  • Use qualitative interviews to document households’ livelihood decisions and connect these findings to our survey data to generate a conceptual model of livelihood-nutrition pathways;
  • Interpret these findings with a view to informing global theory about the agriculture-nutrition disconnect and nutrition-sensitive development, and
  • Disseminate findings in key national policy-making forums, at this vital moment in Myanmar’s history.

The research plan for the project designates three stages of data collection:

  1.  A baseline survey with the purpose of collecting data on households’ demographics,
    assets, anthropometrics, livelihoods and food and nutrition circumstances (completed Jan-April 2016);
  2. A series of qualitative interviews with householders and village-level focus groups for the purpose of generating detailed information on livelihood change and its
    implications for food systems in rural Myanmar (currently underway); and
  3. A return panel survey of households from Stage 1, at a different seasonal point, to
    assess change over time in the context of seasonal variations in food production and
    livelihood opportunities (end of 2017).

We will continue to update this website with project outputs and happenings from rural Myanmar.

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References:

FAO, WFP & IFAD (2012) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012. Economic Growth is Necessary but not Sufficient to Accelerate Reduction of Hunger and Malnutrition. Rome,
FAO.

Gillespie, S., Harris, J. & Kadiyala, S. (2012) The agriculture-nutrition disconnect in India IFPRI Discussion Paper 001187.

Pritchard, B., Rammohan, A., Sekher, M., Parasuraman, S. & Choithani, C. (2013) Feeding
India: Livelihoods, Entitlements and Capabilities, Earthscan, London.