Knowledge is a Way out of Poverty
Burmese women started to cooperate on selling chilli peppers after receiving training from Mission East. Better knowledge means more profits, and that brings people out of poverty.
Imagine that you have never had a bank account. Banknotes are something you only see when you travel - to India, to sell your home-grown chillies and buy rice. If you need anything else, you exchange your crops for it, or manage to do without it.
Such is life for the people of the impoverished Chin State in Burma. But with training from Mission East, the poor villagers receive important knowledge, with which they can lift themselves out of poverty. An example is the sale of chilli, which many women among the Mara people grow. Before, they used to walk for six days back and forth to India, to sell the chilli at a very low price. More than half of their profits went to cover the travel costs. But after training from Mission East about value chains, which is an analysis of the activities that can provide more value to a product, the women changed their approach.
Shockingly high Profits
"We found out that our buyers used the chillies to make powder, and that they had a profit of 50 per cent," says Mai Ki, who is project manager for Mission East’s local partner in Burma. "So if our women make the chilli powder themselves, and a thousand women rent a truck, in which only two women leave for India, we have saved 5,000 rupees (about 65 Euro). We were very surprised, when we found out about this. We are not accustomed to handle money matters, and have only little sense of business. "
The impoverished villagers in western Burma also learn about more efficient cultivation of vegetables, by analysing the soil and applying fertilizers. By training local organizations, also known as building capacity, Mission East ensures that the community will manage in the longer term.
Accounting was Tedious
Mission East also provided the local partner organization in Burma with training in accounting, so they can seek money from foundations, and run their own projects more efficiently.
Mai Ki explains: "Before, we used to write our accounts in word files. Three people had to stand around a calculator and check three times in order to avoid miscalculations. It was a waste of time, and we always got nervous, because we were afraid to make mistakes. Then, Kendrah Jespersen from Mission East showed us how the Excel program works. It was exciting for us to see how calculation was made so easy. Capacity building is like getting ones eyes opened, and it really makes a positive change," says Mai Ki.
Mai Ki talked about the work in Burma during her visit in Copenhagen last spring.