Inclusive Business Initiative Improves Livelihoods for Local People in Rakhine State

When Ko Zaw Min Htun returned to his home on Man-Aung Island, Rakhine State, in 2016, not much had changed. Steady jobs were still few and far between, and the 33 year-old father of four had to settle for a succession of casual labour jobs. This was hard to accept for someone with Zaw’s skills and experience.

Zaw had left the island two years earlier in search of stable work, finding a job at a workshop in Malaysia, where he learned how to drive and maintain tractors. Zaw took full advantage of the economic opportunities on offer in Malaysia. He worked hard, earned a decent income, and learned new skills. But being apart from his young family for so long had become too much to bear.

Although Zaw returned home as an experienced, skilled worker, he found himself back where he had started; forced to take the part-time, intermittent work on offer, such as logging, labouring, and small repair jobs.

In 2018, the economic outlook for the island began to change. In an effort to revitalise the island, Mya Ayer Co. Ltd. came to Man-Aung to build Myanmar’s first zero-waste factory for organic coconut products. The factory, which represents

one of the largest manufacturing investments in Rakhine State, integrates farmers into sustainable, inclusive supply chains that create jobs and increase incomes. As part of the initiative, Mya Ayer has introduced intercropping of turmeric, pineapple, and ginger, providing coconut farmers with additional sources of income.

This ambitious inclusive business initiative was supported by UK aid in the form of a grant award from the DaNa Facility, implemented by DAI. The company started construction in June 2018 and began hiring local people to support the project.

Zaw wasted no time submitting an application. “I was overwhelmed that a project of such a large scale was happening on our island. It has provided hope and real opportunities for us,” he said.

Zaw was hired as a full-time driver. After a few months, the company bought a new tractor with UK aid support to assist farmers with intercropping. Because of the skills he learned in Malaysia, Zaw was chosen to drive and maintain the tractor.

“Now I am the right man in the right place at the right time. I am earning enough for my family without having to be away from them anymore. My family can now live comfortably in our traditional home and I get to see my children every day,” said Zaw.

Mya Ayer will complete construction of the Man- Aung Ratana Factory in 2020, creating 250 more jobs for the local community. Once operational, the company will purchase coconuts from over 4,000 local farmers at premium prices.