Man with vegetables
By Svend Løbner 25 Sep 2019 |

3x3 project is intended to increase health in poor Myanmar

Three meals a day, three kinds of vegetables at each meal, and three food groups each week. It is the recipe that should make the population healthy so that they have the profits to learn new sustainable cultivation methods and thus lift the remote Maraland out of poverty.

At home, we eat three times a day - at least! But in Maraland, Chin state in southwestern Myanmar, they only eat twice a day, and the diet consists of rice and maize morning and evening. The deficient nutrition causes anemia and eye inflammation in the children. These health problems can affect children's ability to do well in school, which can have long-term consequences for their future opportunities.

Switching between crops


Mission East supports information campaigns and model farming to inform the Mara people of good nutrition and - not least - to teach them how to grow various nutritious crops in a sustainable way.

As part of the nexus work, Mission East remains in the intermediate phase of relief and development, to help locals to understand the possibilities of breaking many years of deep poverty.

“The Mara people are very poor because the access conditions are so poor. From the capital it takes 10 hours by bus, 16 hours by car and 10 hours by motorcycle to reach the Mara region. In most Mara villages there is no access by car, no electricity and no telephone connection. Explains Mai Ki, head of Mission East's local partner organization 'Together for Sustainable Development' (TSD), who recently visited Mission East's office in Hellerup, and told about the two tracks of the project: Practical education and sustainable agriculture.

“Before, we only grew rice and maize. We did not alternate between the crops, but changed the fields instead. Once the soil was broken somewhere, we moved somewhere else. Today we switch between the crops and not between the fields, ”smiles Mai Ki.

Mai Ki

“Today, we grow both vegetables for our own consumption and earnings. The field not only provides food for the family, but also crops that can be sold, ”Mai Ki said when she visited Copenhagen in June.

Reducing the work load 

The Mara people cultivate the land, as they have done for generations. They live and work in the mountains, moving the fields from place to place as the soil becomes depleted. They cut down trees and burn large areas to prepare for new fields.

And it goes beyond nature: “When trees are cut down to give way to new fields, there is no longer anything on the ground. When the heavy monsoon rain comes, all fertile soil is washed down into the rivers, ”explains Mai Ki.

The people are now learning that they can keep the same field if they just replace the crops and grow varied. And it has a positive effect on both nature and people:

“It reduces the annual felling of trees and burning of land. And it is not necessary to create new paths and temporary shelters. Yes, people's workload is only about a tenth of what it was before, ”says Mai Ki.

Dependent on rice and corn

In addition to rice and corn, the population needs vitamins through fruits and vegetables and proteins through beans and peas - not necessarily meat. But learning the new habits is uphill.

“Our people are almost dependent on rice and corn. Even when they've eaten bananas, they say, "I haven't had anything to eat today!" They don't count bananas as food. But we insist: bananas, sweet potatoes, pineapple, yes, all kinds of fruits and vegetables are food!

Yams are also good because the root is free of cholesterol. We export yams to China, which uses the root for making noodles. We also grow avocado, and experts say that our soil and climate are suitable for coffee growing, ”says Mai Ki, who, through his development work, teaches the population to eat three times a day with three kinds of vegetables. Over the course of a week, they eat nutritious food from three food groups.

Model farming is showing the way

Together with the organization Health and Hope, TSD has created model farms, in which a total of 130 families grow varied crops in a sustainable way as a model for the rest of the population.

"People are very afraid to move away from their traditional cultivation methods and replace" rotating "fields with" rotating "crops. That is why it is so important that they have role models and see that the new cultivation methods in the model fields succeed and there is still food, even if the crops change, ”says Mai Ki, and continues:

“Before, we could only produce rice and corn enough for our own consumption. There was nothing in excess to sell off. The project also includes a common grocery store where people can both buy local goods and obtain goods from outside. ”

Facts: The Mara people i Chin-state

  • There are about 30,000 Mara people living in the remote mountains of Chin State. The rest of the small ethnic group of a total of 100,000 people live on the other side of the border in India.
  • Mara is one of 53 ethnic groups in the state of Chin in Myanmar. Mara means "southern" and denotes a people moving from north to south. The Mara people are originally from China.
  • The first families arrived in present-day Chindel State in the 16th century. Mission East is partnering with two organizations to promote new farming practices in the Mara region: Together for Sustainable Development and Health and Hope.
  • In addition, Mission East also supports Mara Evangelical Church, which runs the 'COME School'.