Being a Young Expert for AgriProFocus in Myanmar - Bente Meindertsma
Bente Mendertsma wrote a blog about her first experiences working and living as a Young Expert in Myanmar:
"Myanmar is often called a sleeping giant. With its large and cheap labour force, favourable climatic conditions and strategic location between China and India, it has a lot of potential for fast economic growth. The recent opening and democratization process of Myanmar is increasingly attracting foreign companies and international NGO’s to start activities in the country. Last October, Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders officially opened a Netherlands embassy for the first time in nearly 50 years.
I moved to Yangon 3 and a half months ago to work as a Young Expert for AgriProFocus. Living and working in Myanmar in this time is extremely interesting. On the one hand, developments go fast and everybody keeps talking about the enormous potential for the agricultural sector. On the other hand, parts of Myanmar are still at war and the effects of 50 years of underinvestment and agricultural mismanagement are so huge that it will take years, or even decades to overcome.
As the country coordinator for AgriProFocus, I’m committed to help addressing these challenges, by making agribusiness work for development. AgriProFocus is an international multi-stakeholder network in the agri-food sector consisting of farmer entrepreneurs, private sector enterprises, governments, knowledge institutions and civil society organisations. By bringing these stakeholders together, their individual and collective impact increases. Active in 13 countries in Africa and South-East Asia, and linking 22.000 agribusiness professionals worldwide, we are the go-to network for farmer entrepreneurs in agricultural value chains.
At the request of several member organizations, AgriProFocus decided to come to Myanmar as well. It is my task to facilitate the setup of the network, start our linking and learning activities and set up programs and projects together with our members. In the first few months, I explored the role and added value of the network and defined the sectors and themes the network will work on this year. We will use the network of 16 Young Experts in Myanmar to explore business possibilities as well as the input of the Dutch embassy.
Horticulture will be one of these sectors. It is important for many of the AgriProFocus members and forms a key part of the MoU for the agricultural cooperation between the Netherlands and Myanmar. Our members see potential in developing horticultural value chains and believe that addressing the challenges will strongly improve the productivity and income of Myanmar farmers. This includes improving access to good seeds, supporting the setup of policies around food safety, capacity building and extension services and improving market linkages.
With the network, we intend to support multi-stakeholder collaboration to address these challenges together. Furthermore, AgriProFocus plans to support the setup and growth of trade fairs in the horticultural sector, to connect local SME’s and farmers to international stakeholders and financial institutions, where this is possible.
I’m looking forward to join forces with all our members in the horticulture sector, so we can wake up the sleeping giant together."