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Small animals bring big dreams

Myanmar, February 11, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nilar Win/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Daw Tin Yi (foreground) and other pig owners by small livestock program at their compound in Htin Pon Kwin village. Photo: Nilar Win/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nilar Win/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Ko No Si and his she-goat in Kan Bat village. Photo: Nilar Win/Mercy Corps

Cyclone Nargis, which devastated large swaths of Myanmar (known also as Burma) in 2008, took everything from residents like 59-year-old Daw Hla Kyi — including her livestock.

But, today, Mercy Corps is helping Kyi and others like her through a small livestock banking system and an innovative agriculture program in Laputta Township, which is one of the most devastating areas of the Delta.

Kyi is one of the beneficiaries of the small livestock banking system and she answered our questions at a local animal trade fair in Laputta.

“Goats are like a savings box. Families keep them well one to next generation. We can choose whatever animals we like, and I am absolutely satisfied with the goat I selected,” she said.

That’s the principle behind Mercy Corps’ small livestock banking system for survivors of Cyclone Nargis. We gave cash to local groups to buy animals to replace their lost livestock. Then we contacted regional animal suppliers to hold an animal trade fair at a market place in the city of Laputta so that cyclone-affected people were able to choose the animals that best helped their households begin to recover.

“I am so delighted to think about my future with a group of goats; I will have a weapon to against poverty,” she said with a smile.

Her gain helps the entire community in one hand too. Small livestock banks involve six households, which share the goats for breeding purposes.

Kyi said that, although she hasn’t yet recovered the livelihood she lost in the cyclone, the livestock bank will help them take more steps to regaining what they’d had.

In January 2011, I took a field trip to hear the voices and stories of other program beneficiaries like Kyi. Daw Tin Yi, a 60-year-old woman, is one of the beneficiaries in Htin Pon Kwin village. She got a sow in first week of January. She showed her satisfaction with huge smiles as her sow is healthy and ready to breed.

“There are 23 groups with six members in each. Each group obtained two pigs. In our group, I will firstly keep the sow and will share next generation piglets to other members. I am keeping the sow very well. Mercy Corps' program assists us as to establish a domestic business. After sharing with other members, and next time my sow give birth more piglets, I will give them to other poor families around here and use them for occasional donations to other neighbors in the village,” Daw Tin Yi said.

She also said that some groups have chosen breeding goats and some goats are giving birth soon.

Beneficiaries of the small livestock program in the village of Kan Bat also showed their appreciation to the small livestock bank program. Ko No Si is a villager form Kan Bat who has been breeding a she- goat with Mercy Corps' program since the first week of January. He said that his goat is about to give birth, therefore other members of his group will have their own goats soon.

“Breeding small livestock is something I'm good at doing; I can manage it very well with no burden. Even my children can help me in tending goats in their spare time. My future plan is breeding them well, and selling male goats to buy more female goats. I am so happy when I got a she-goat as the price is beyond my reach and it is like a savings box. I will build a small hut for them in the coming months,” said Ko No Si.

He said that he is trying to have a big goat group starting with this one. Ko No Si, like his neighbors and fellow cyclone survivors, is hoping to have better life in the future with hard work and help from Mercy Corps.