Diakonia - People change the world
Zin Myo Lwin Zin Myo Lwin had his future set out for him. But a training in ecofarming changed everything.

The innovative farmer

“Before the training I didn’t know myself but after the training I knew who I was, what my interests were and what I should do. I knew I needed to go home and farm.”

At first glance Zin Myo Lwin’s situation seems common. He grew up in a farming family in Myanmar and now, at 24, he’s a farmer working the family’s land. However, Zin is leading a rather uncommon, and inspiring life.

Zin had the unusual opportunity of attending university and after graduating with a degree in chemistry was expected to earn a steady income working in an office. It seemed Zin’s path was firmly set until, out of curiosity, he participated in an agricultural training provided by Diakonia partner Kalayana Mitta Foundation (KMF). Zin describes the experience as one that changed his life:

“Before the training I didn’t know myself but after the training I knew who I was, what my interests were and what I should do. I knew I needed to go home and farm.”

His decision met with disapproval

In Myanmar, farming is generally seen as being for those without other options and Zin’s decision met with opposition from his parents and disapproval from almost everyone.

“The community chided me for being an educated youth and wanting to farm. Most people my age aren’t farming anymore but are migrating to urban areas for better opportunities,” says Zin.

Participants in KMF:s education in ecofarming.

His family's and community’s doubts about his decision grew even stronger when they learned he planned to break from the powerful agro-industry and farm organically using sustainable farming techniques he’d learned from KFM. Feeling certain these methods would fail, Zin’s father gave him a small plot of land to prove his methods could be economically successful. Zin embraced the challenge and began growing betel leaves using organic fertilizers he produced himself. 

“I like organic, not only for the business aspect but to maintain biodiversity and the environment,” explains Zin.

The training and support Zin received from KMF, including an organic farming internship in Bhutan and participation in a Young Farmer’s Project, which incorporated things like decision-making and public speaking, paid off. The test plot exceeded everyone’s expectations and will be expanded. Both Zin’s father and the community are taking note and opening up to farming techniques that not only protect the environment but also put earnings, seed ownership and decision making power about what to grow back in the hands of local farmers rather than agro-business.

The younger generation is needed

 “We, as farmers need legal protection against exploitation by brokers. I want more youth to realize that there are still many resources in our country and communities which we need to use and protect,” says Zin who has become an advocate not just of organic farming but for bringing youth back to the profession of farming.

In a country which despite recent growth is considered one of the least developed in the world, and where an estimated 70 per cent of the population still earn a living from some form of agricultural work it’s critical the younger generation be involved in ensuring farming practices are environmentally sustainable and economically empowering.  

It’s sometimes easy to get discouraged about the state of the environment and the plight of local farmers but Zin’s heartfelt passion and ever-increasing technical knowledge are a reminder to everyone he meets that positive change is not only possible, it’s happening.