We're in the midst of monsoon season in Myanmar, which is a pivotal time of the year for local farmers. Heavy rains offer relief ater months of insufferable heat, making the ground fertile enough to sustain rice, beans, pulses, and other rain-fed crops that often make up the brunt of a family's yearly income.
This year, however, torrential rains have caused monumental flooding in twelve out of fourteen states. With more than 1 million people affected and 1.3 million acres of rice paddy fields sitting idly underwater for two weeks, these rains have thrown off the fragile balance that rural farmers rely on. Most farmers lack access to savings, insurance, and labor reserves, compromising their ability to bounce back from disasters like this month’s flooding. One bad harvest can set a household back for years, and in this case, damage to delicate farmland combined with the widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure point to a long and difficult recovery process ahead.
Over the past week, Proximity has reached out to our network of 250 field staff nationwide to understand how the floods are affecting our rural customers. We’ve learned that the damage is severe. In the township of Minhla alone, sales representative Ko Yan Naing Tun reports that 3,000 acres of harvested land have been completely destroyed, leaving farmers without a safety net. The extent of the damage is still to be determined.
We are evaluating ways to help our customers remain resilient in the face of natural disaster. Proximity Finance, our farm-lending business unit, is considering different ways to restructure loans and help reduce the financial burden on flood victims. Members of our staff have volunteered to assemble relief packages in Padaung and Pwint Phyu Township, and Proximity has greatly reduced the price of lanters for staff members wishing to purchase solar lights to donate to flood victims. Proximity’s experience in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 leads us to believe that the toughest time in the recovery process will take place when the floods fully recede and the aid stops flowing in. Looking at the long road ahead of our customers, we are committed to designing innovative products and services that will help our customers rebuild stronger, more robust businesses that will thrive for years to come.