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PROXIMITY DESIGNS – Empathy-Driven Solutions for Rural Rice Farmers in Myanmar (Burma)

October 23, 2019


Until two years ago, Myanmar was the second most isolated country after North Korea. So they just didn’t have access to normal things that farmers elsewhere would have access to. Like new machinery, equipment, technologies, credits and roads, infrastructure so they can get their goods to market. Farming here was the backbone of the economy and yet farming was very unproductive. And they’ve been on their own to figure how to farm. We are trying to help them catch-up. Farmers were spending 6-8 hours a day hauling heavy buckets of water on their shoulders to irrigate their fields and it’s just that it got to be a better way. We just started off very mildly by saying let’s try introducing these food farms that would help families improve their daily productivity. It took off really rapidly because it was a way for farmers to able to uplift water much more efficiently, they were able to expand their plots, and a better water control, they were able to diversify and grow early a crop and late a crop and thus we saw people doubling and tripling their income straight away. They were supposed to fix the 8 hour strategy on a day, it’s down to 2 hours on a Steermaster. We also started piloting farm finance where we were able to provide farming finance to smallholder farmers. Traditional micro finance was largely neglecting the needs of farmers. So we started Proximity Finance, and we have about 35000 borrowers now. We want to offer land services that really help the smallholder farmer prosper. [foreign language] We call them Dusthead Solutions. They keep with our design principles of super low cost, easy to adapt and have a big impact. And once again scale. So we have a team of ergonomists, who visit villages, speak with farmers, make presentations to a lot of engaging the farmers to understand their problem. We hold a public meeting with the villagers there we teach about cultivation techniques including salt water soaking We also give demonstrations after that we give practical field training. Later we go visit the village once a week. The more we do this, the more they trust us and our techniques. In this way we build friendships with the communities. And the farmers actually help us, you know design. They say “Just tell us what’s low cost, simple and high impact, that’s what we want”. We really can’t substitute for that human interaction and really engaging personal level farmers. It really starts on a point of empathy for the end user. And designing with that person in mind. We wanted to promote equitable growth. There is a growing income in this sphere between urban and rural. We want to make sure that the rural areas stays vibrant as possible. We want to reach 28 to 30 more townships that have major rice growing and have millions of farmers there. I used to not have any cultivating equipment and I had to rent a tractor which increased my hardship which has made my life easier and my income has increased as a result. Farmers are extremely resilient and entrepreneurial. And they have to be ingenious. Necessity is the mother of invention. And that’s really been story of Myanmar.

3 Comments

  • Reply SithSereyPheap1 November 14, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Goodluck Myanmar from Cambodia !!! ;))))

  • Reply SithSereyPheap1 November 14, 2017 at 2:53 am

    What are you guy chewing in your mouth ? Send me some !!!

  • Reply Dans Austv September 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Good luck to Myanmar farmers. I'm doing uni research on Technology for rural areas and I found you. Good luck to all farmers and Proximity Design, you have helped many farmers to have a better life. Have a great harvesting season. From Australia.

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