Making our land green again

Myanmar, January 19, 2012

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I’m 19 years old and live in Bokone village, in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy Delta. Together with eight other people from my village, I am part of a community organisation called Sein Pyae Aye Yar. In English, it means Full Green Ayeyarwaddy Delta.

With help from Mercy Corps, we’ve been working since 2010 to help make our land green again, preserving what trees and mangroves we have left and replacing the many that have been cut for firewood.

We’re only a small group, but we’re doing everything we can to help our village. As the trees and mangrove forests around our village disappear, people have been left without shelter from cyclones and storms and are at more risk from floods; at the same time, they have to travel far or pay more for wood to use for cooking and boiling water as supplies become even more scarce.

So like other groups across the Delta, with funds and lots of training from Mercy Corps, we’ve started to make our own special stoves that burn less wood, to grow and plant tree saplings to replace those that have been cut, and to work with the people of our village so we all know more about looking after the environment around us.

At first, we started by talking to everyone at community meetings. We asked them about what they thought their needs were and collected information about how people get firewood and problems they face trying to do that. Then we started talking to everyone about environmental awareness and global warming, telling them how things like special stoves can use less wood and save everyone money, too.

We also told them about our plans to grow saplings to protect everyone from storms and other problems that arise from lack of trees. Now I’m in charge of the nursery where we grow the saplings. After talking to the community, we decided that eucalyptus was the best to plant as it grows fast and is good at stopping strong winds.

We want everyone to participate in these efforts and be joint owners of the trees so we all look after them together. We decided to ask the village to pay a quarter of the cost of the trees, while our group covers the rest. Without help from Mercy Corps and our community organisation, the village could not afford these trees, but by paying a little of the cost it makes everyone invest and benefit.

We are happy that we can help our community develop. It's important that we have ownership of the whole process and make the decisions that are right for our village. We are beginning to make a real change and have a vision that our organisation will be around to help people for a long time.