Chances are, when you walk into the Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer office in Yangon, you will hear someone talking on the phone probably arranging a meeting or discussing a volunteer assignment with a host organization, be greeted with smiles from the staff, and be grateful for the air conditioning. The small but mighty staff of the F2F program in Burma (also known as Myanmar) dedicate themselves to each and every task, working relentlessly to make sure that the small-scale farmers, fishers, and others engaged in rural work receive the best training F2F can deliver.
After spending some time with the staff, both in and out of the office, Winrock program associate Alex Loken (from our Arlington, VA office) sat down with each of them to find out what their most memorable moment has been while working for the Farmer-to Farmer program. Their thoughts are included below:
Dr. Ai Thanda Kyaw
Dr. Ai Thanda is the Country Director of Burma’s Farmer-to-Farmer program. She has been working on F2F since October 2013, but has been working with Winrock as a consultant since 2012. She has degrees in Veterinary Science, Business Administration, and Ecology.
“I accompanied a volunteer training coffee farmers. On the last day of the training, the women workers from the coffee farm came up to me, we had been working with them that week and had a great time. They learned so much from the training and wanted to learn more. They asked questions about my background and they said that they wanted to be like me, to learn, to achieve. When I went back recently, the women remembered me. They said they have been using the information they learned and are looking forward to the next coffee season. We definitely made an impression.”
“Another memorable moment happened after I returned from a trip to the US earlier this year. I walked into the office and it was finally furnished. When the project started, we didn’t have an office and I worked from home. To see the office completely set up, I thought of all of the people we were going to help. It was an emotional moment.”
Dr. Thet Khaing
Dr. Thet Khaing, or TK as he is affectionately called by those who cannot properly pronounce his name, is a Technical Officer with a specialty in livestock, and also serves as the M&E Officer. He started working on F2F in February; his degree is in Veterinary Science.
“My most memorable moment happened with a recent volunteer training goat farmers. The farmers are very happy to learn information they have never heard before. They believe the information is very useful. It made me feel good to know that we were giving them knowledge that will help them. I feel Winrock can provide the knowledge for farmers that they really need.”
Yee Yee Thant
Yee Yee is a Technical Officer specializing in agriculture. Her degree is in soil and water management and she has been working on F2F since January.
“My first experience with F2F was an assignment on polyculture tilapia. I had never been to an aquaculture fish pond. I met the fish farmers and I won’t forget the poor practices. I didn’t know anything about fish farming before that. I learned that we have many kinds of fish here in Myanmar. Now I’m more familiar with the fish farmers and fish farming, I understand their problems and what they need now. I enjoy the aquaculture assignments and feel that I can help them with what I have learned.”
Nan Shwe Sin Aung
Shwe Sin is the accountant who has been working with F2F since January. She is currently finishing her degree in commerce.
“My most memorable moment was the day when I successfully set up the Winrock account. It took two months to set up the account and was very challenging. I felt very accomplished after we finished because it was hard and now it is much easier to manage the office and funds. It helps us do our work more easily. I like these challenges and learning new things that will help in the future.”
Mabel Moo is the administrative assistant; she just started with F2F in April.
“Farmer-to-Farmer is my first job. I am learning very much from the staff, especially Shwe Sin. She is very helpful and patient. She has taught me about document types we use at Winrock and other thing. I enjoy learning and I am very excited to see what will come next in this project.”
Ko Moe Zaw, the indefatigable office driver who navigates the crowded streets of Yangon with a smile.
And Alex Loken shares some thoughts herself, after her two months in country:
“As for me, I have had the pleasure of working in Myanmar with this staff for about two months. During that time I have learned that Myanmar is an incredibly diverse country bursting with potential. I have seen fishermen skimming by on Inle Lake and onion farmers in the Dry Zone making plans for their future as certified organic farmers. I learned that beekeepers must move with their bees constantly depending on what flowers are in bloom, tapioca is an excellent source of nutrients for pigs, and Myanmar’s organic coffee could make a splash on the international coffee market. But what is my most memorable moment working on the Farmer-to-Farmer program? It isn’t really a moment or event – it’s the palpable, contagious, and inspiring passion that the staff brings to the office every day. And I will carry it with me in all future projects.