Ko Myo Kyi and Ma Khin New Aye live in Taung Tar Yar village in Myanmar’s far southwest Ayeyarwady Region, which is defined by the far-reaching Ayeyarwady River system that has hundreds of powerful tributaries by which people live but also because of which they struggle sometimes. Ko Kyi and Ma Ayge have three children: Okka Maung, a 12-year-old boy in Grade 5; Moe Pyae Thazin, a 10-year-old girl in Grade 3 and Chit Phue Hnone, a toddler who is not yet in school. In the dry season, the couple earns 300,000 Kyat ($250) growing chilies and corn on a half-acre of land they own. From June to November, which is the rainy season, they cannot plant anything as their land is under water.
Because Ko Kyi is not a fisherman, and they have had no other ways to earn a living, the couple have taken high-interest loans from commercial lenders for years just to buy food and pay basic expenses. Because of this difficult situation, including having a young child in need of a better diet, the family was prioritized by their community to join a nutrition education project funded by Japan’s Ajinomoto Company and led by CWS. Happy to have help, Ma Aye readily joined in all the education sessions about nutrition, hygiene and sanitation as well as chicken-raising and home-gardening – all of which combine, of course, to help families have healthier children starting from their earliest years.
As part of the project’s aim to reduce young child malnutrition, Ma Aye received three hens and a rooster when she finished the nutrition course; since then she has used her new knowledge to start a home garden and poultry-raising, which already yields eggs to help her improve her children’s diet. She has five baby chicks too to expand the brood. Ma Aye’s garden has watercress, long beans, okra, spinach and pumpkin, some of which she cooks regularly to further improve the family diet. When we spoke to Ma Aye recently, she smiled and said, “Now I have more information and know how to prepare well-balanced meals with vegetables and eggs for protein to help my children grow healthy. And, though I honestly never thought about it before, I also wash my baby’s hands before meals and I make sure the older children do to.” From the conversation, CWS staff felt sure that Ma Aye does know very well how to prepare nutritious food properly and, also, to monitor her youngest child’s growth to make sure she grows strong.
So far, the family has used their vegetables and eggs only for themselves; but, before long, if Ma Aye is like her neighbors and friends who are also partnering with CWS and the Ajinomoto Company to improve their lives and wellbeing, she will be selling her extra eggs and chickens for much-needed cash, and adding chicken meat, at least, to the family’s diet. Slowly but surely, she and the CWS team are confident, she and Ko Kyi will be creating a better life for themselves and their children. They plan to work their way out of their old debts, too; and then – who knows what more good can come? For now, because of their partnership with CWS, they are hopeful and on their way.
(For more information please contact IKhreusirikul@cwsglobal.org )