By MIN KHET MAUNG
NAUNGTAWGYI—Thein Thein, 43, still can’t restart her small-scale livestock business, which once supported her six-member family, almost one year after Cyclone Nargis.
She lost her prize flock of four dozen ducks and three pigs, valued at more than US $300, when Cyclone Nargis pummeled Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta in May 2008, leaving close to 140,000 people dead or missing and more than 2 million people destitute.
“I just have this small pig that I bought on credit from my neighbor,” the mother of five children said, pointing at a pig sleeping in a pigsty beside an empty duck coop.
As a single parent, she had never found it hard to earn household income until the cyclone struck. Now she crimps to get enough money for rice.
Since her life has changed, Thein Thein and her eldest son, age 16, now moonlight as day laborers for rice farmers in her village, Naungtawgyi, in Pyapon Township, one of the hardest hit areas.
“We want to resume our old business,” she said. “But how can we, without any assistance?”
Thein Thein said people in her area have yet to receive any aid in terms of restoring poultry and livestock animals.
Like Thein Thein, there are thousands of small-scale farmers in the cyclone-affected townships of Rangoon and Irrawaddy Division who are unable to rebuild their livelihoods.
Backyard poultry-raising and livestock play an important economic role in the households of small villages.
Poultry—chicken and ducks—are raised for eggs and meat, providing a nutritious variety in people’s diets, plus earning extra income. Pigs are also raised and sold for income and on special occasions such as weddings and festivals. Pigs, which can be raised in a confined space, are particularly important for the landless.
Water buffaloes and cattle require more land and are important draught animals, necessary for land cultivation and transportation.
In the aftermath of the cyclone, vast numbers of poultry and livestock died along with cyclone victims, causing major long-term income loss to the survivors who are still trying to rebuild their lives.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 525,000 ducks (52 perfect of the population), 1.5 million chickens (45 percent), 68,000 pigs (28 percent), 7,500 goats (30 percent) and 227,000 draught animals (51 percent of water buffaloes and 23 percent of cattle) were died in the cyclone.
In an effort to replace the lost animals, the military government, UN agencies and international organizations have donated poultry and livestock animals to small-scale farmers in many townships of Rangoon and Irrawaddy Division.
“Our distribution targets the poor, the land-less, and female-headed families, who are unable to restore their livelihoods by themselves,” an FAO official said.
Assisting small-scale livestock farmers is one of the most urgent tasks of humanitarian agencies, he said, because the farmers rely on backyard farming as an essential income provider.
The FAO official said that despite the assistance, only a small percentage of the lost poultry and livestock has been provided so far.
According to FAO statistics, 12 percent of pigs, 3 percent of cattle and buffaloes, 1 percent of chickens and 20 percent of ducks have been replaced.
“We need more international assistance in order to fully restore their livelihoods,” said the official. “But, so far we have received only a small amount of funding.”