Maung Kyaw Win Naing admits that he’s not your average seventeen year-old. While many of his peers want to move away and work in nearby cities, he’s been begging to take charge of the family’s farm for years. “I like what I’m doing,” he says, “I like that I can plant something and see it grow, see all the young green leaves sprouting everywhere.” Life, however, takes funny turns, and just when Maung Kyaw finally got his wish, love happened.
Even though the two of them grew up together in the village of Tha Yat Oak in the upper Delta region of Myanmar, they only started seeing each other shortly before she left to attend university in Hinthada, an hour away. Now in her second year, Maung Kyaw would slip away at any available chance to see her. As love blossomed, the family’s betel plants wilted.
Watering the family’s one-acre betel plot took Maung Kyaw and two hired workers five to seven hours every morning. Afterwards, Maung Kyaw managed the family’s blacksmithing and welding business. His father would grow angry if he neglected any of his responsibilities, and his girlfriend would be disappointed if Maung Kyaw couldn’t see her, but he simply had no time to spare. “Until last year, he was really immersed in the farm, but this year, his mind is elsewhere,” remarked Maung Kyaw’s father, as he remembers the tense period for the family.
Just when it looked like nothing was going to give and no one was willing to budge, a Proximity agent visited the village. The family thought it sounded to good to be true, but Maung Kyaw convinced them to test drip irrigation. The difference was immediate. Using drip, Maung Kyaw spent only one hour a day watering the betel plants. By 7:30 am, he could set off for Hinthada to visit his girlfriend. What’s more, he could do the work by himself, so every month the family saves US $70 on labor and $60 on the diesel that would have otherwise gone to keeping their engine on for five to seven hours a day. Additionally, the family noticed fewer pests and diseases on their land. One and a half months after the purchase, the drip has more than paid for itself.
These days, Maung Kyaw exudes the same enthusiasm he once had for taking on the family’s business. He’s speaking of planting an additional acre of betel in May, since he could manage the land by himself and still have plenty of time for social commitments. He’s also looking to expand their welding business, and dreams of someday starting a fully equipped workshop. His family is relieved at his renewed commitment; after all, they say, weddings these days can be quite expensive.