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    Wednesday
    Jun062012

    BAGAN: A team that sings and dances together...

    Dinner entertainment went a little something like this.

    We work hard, so it’s only right we get to play hard too.

    Last weekend, on our staff retreat to Bagan, we proved we could do just that. We also proved we’re pretty good at long bus journeys, pretty bad at group photos, and if you give us a microphone and a backing song we’ll be happy (but not necessarily in tune) for days.


     

     

    Tuesday
    Jun052012

    YANGON: A Successful Season

    350+ staff at the annual meeting in Yangon

     Proximity Design’s work is wide-ranging. From irrigation products to rural financing, from cash-for-work infrastructure projects to farming advisory services, we have our fingers in many pies. Our reach is also wide, and our staff of over 350 is spread out across the country 30+ teams, with each member bringing in-depth local knowledge that is invaluable to our work. But, vital though that information is, gathering it, in a country with limited access to internet or telephone services, can be a challenge. So, we meet as often as we can. All 350 of us. In Yangon. And we come by bus, bike, boat and taxi, each armed with detailed customer insights that inform the work of our entire organization. 

    Professor Gomez-Ibanez talks rural infrastructure with Debbie Aung-DinOver three days detailed presentations from each team helped paint a picture of our progress so far, noting the successes, areas to improve, and impact we had in the past year. In addition, we heard talks from Harvard School of Design’s Professor Gomez-Ibanez on infrastructure, Dr Aung Tun Thet on business ethics, and a panel of local experts on the current rural economic conditions. Each day was peppered with open-mic style sessions in which field staff shared customer stories which drove home the importance of the work we do. It is this balance of applied international expertise, indepth local insight, and the personal relationships we build with our customers, that drives our success and gives us such a platform to make an impact. 

    Most importantly, there was cake...

    Monday
    May282012

    Horror Stories from the Field: The Army Worm Invasion  


    U Khin Maung Than is a rice farmer, growing on 15 acres of land in the Delta village of Aye Ywar. His plot is beautiful. A million shades of vibrant green fill your vision as you approach by boat along the ever narrowing canal, the breeze creates a silky carpet out of the rice field and all appears to be fine.

    But beneath this picturesque façade trouble is brewing. 7 acres of U Khin Maung’s paddy has fallen victim to the scariest of all delta dwelling pests: the Mighty Armyworm. And they’re destroying it all. This plot that feeds his family and pays for his child’s education is being rapidly reduced to mulch and the armyworms are spreading at devastating speeds.

    This was the situation in January this year, when U Khin Maung Than called out Proximity’s Bogalay based Farm Advisory Service (FAS) team to his farm. The armyworm has a fierce reputation. In 2009, the President of Liberia called a national state of emergency when they attacked large regions of the country destroying everything in their path. In a poor country, in a village as remote as Aye Ywar, pesticides are hard to come by, and the traditional alternative is to burn all of the paddy, and wait for the soil to recover before trying again the next season. The crops go to waste, as does the money spent on planting, and the family struggle to get by on an income that’s just half of what they had anticipated. For U Khin Maung Than, this would mean a loss of around 750, 000 kyat ($920 USD).

    Fortunately, Proximity’s Farm Advisory Services team had a simple, inexpensive solution to his problem:

    The kryptonite of the armyworm is water. When not feasting on paddy, they reside within the dry cracks of land between crops. When their trenches are flooded, the armyworms either drown directly or are killed off by the fatigue of trying to survive. A cavalry of ducks then sets upon the few remaining survivors, and the FAS SWAT team sweeps out the casualties with a net, restoring peace to the land. Simple. No loss of crops, no wasted land, and no $920 USD debt accumulated.

    U Khin Maung Aye 1. Armyworms 0.

    Thursday
    May242012

    MYANMAR: Thoughtful Thursday

    Sunday
    May202012

    1000 Words: It's Raining, It's Pouring

    The first rains of the year provide a welcome break from the stifling heat of the past season. Not long until the monsoons sweep the whole country, saturating ricefields and muddying up the countryside for ploughing and planting. Roll on the vibrant greens of the coming rice season.