By Syed Aman Ali*
A new mobile application is delivering crucial aquaculture information to small-scale fish farmers who have restricted access to extension services due to lockdown measures in Myanmar.
The Shwe Ngar app, which was developed by WorldFish and partners with funding from USAID, provides fish farming families with timely information on how to stock and feed fish, fish health, and aquaculture technologies, as well as nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene practices. The app also connects fish farmers to suppliers, traders, and others in order to strengthen the country’s fisheries value chains.
The user-friendly digital solution is meant to make life easier for fish farmers through improved access to aquaculture information, markets to increase income, said the mission director of USAID Burma, Aler Grubbs, during the official launch of the “Shwe Ngar” mobile phone application in October.
Fish account for 60 percent of the animal-sourced food consumed in Myanmar. However, the amount of wild fish being caught from fresh and marine waters in Myanmar is declining. Amidst the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, aquaculture production and marketing activities in Myanmar have been disrupted due to government-imposed travel restrictions since March 2020.
Developed as part of WorldFish’s Fish for Livelihoods project, this mobile application is accessible to anyone with an internet or cell phone connection. It is aimed at boosting the capacity of community members with limited resources and opportunities to travel, especially during COVID-19.
The use of innovative and easy-to-access technology builds resilience during shocks by improving access to information, economic opportunity and safe and nutritious foods, especially for women, youth, and ethnic communities, said Grubbs.
The digital tool was developed with Single Spark, an ICT company from the Netherlands, to take virtual extension one step further with the delivery of information to farmers operating wherever they have access to a mobile phone signal and the internet, said country director of WorldFish Myanmar, Michael Akester to more than 180 live attendees during the virtual launch.
The Shwe Ngar app is built on the prior contextual experience of WorldFish in Myanmar. Socially inclusive and accessible, it is available in English and Burmese, where local farmers can access all modules in Burmese and easily formulate fish feed recipe with local ingredients with a few clicks, said Manjurul Karim, Chief of Party of the Fish for Livelihoods project.
“The app can also be effectively used for project implementation and monitoring, allowing transparency and communication of information to the higher authority on what the project has achieved,” said the director of international relations and projects at Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, & Irrigation (MoALI).
“This launch is part of a larger effort to improve and reach all members of the aquatic food value chain, so that more food-safe fish and fish products can reach local markets. This project focuses on integrating communities in Shan and Kachin states, Sagaing and Mandalay regions, into stronger aquaculture value chains to support inclusive economic growth in Myanmar,” said Aler Grubbs.
Building partnerships and capacity to support and sustain locally-led aquaculture and fisheries development
“As one of the implementing partners of Fish for Livelihoods representing the private sector in Myanmar, we are glad to implement this technology for farmers that will certainly benefit and have positive implications for them in the long run,” said general secretary of Myanmar Fisheries Federation, U Win Kyaing.
In his closing remarks, Travis Guymon, activity manager of USAID Burma, again emphasized the role of technology in addressing all systematic social, economic and environmental constraints of the small-scale aquaculture (SSA).
“There are many exciting opportunities for this app and the Fish for Livelihoods project to capitalize our work for the next four years with an improved connection with farmers and rural communities. We look forward to building these partnerships and expanding the impact to support and sustain locally-led aquaculture and fisheries development,” he explained.
“USAID is extremely proud of working for Myanmar’s agriculture and fisheries sectors. When we look back at the objectives of the Fish for Livelihoods project, I can say proudly that we are on the right track and are headed in the right direction,” Guymon said.