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The team was prime for adventure this week as we took off for Mandalay with Winrock Technical Officer, Dr. Thet Khaing (TK), to consult with the Mandalay Livestock Federation. The Mandalay Livestock Federation is one of the regional associations under the umbrella of the Myanmar Livestock Federation and is focused on farmer training and advocating for support for the domestic industry.  Moreover, the organization works to provide stability to a market that is besieged with price fluctuations caused by cheap meat imports and price wars waged by the multinationals that control the market. Due to the location of its farmers in the “Dry Zone,” the Mandalay Livestock Federation boasts an active and engaged membership, which is less bogged down with inclement weather. The leadership is very focused on collaboration. Thirty-seven of the members have already formed their own business, the Mandalay Livestock Development Corporation, Ltd (MLDC), which financially supports the trainings held by the Mandalay Livestock Federation.

The team sits down with Mandalay chicken farmers to learn about issues facing the industry

Many of those leaders, mostly hard-working farmers and independent businessmen from the livestock sector, took a break with their busy schedules on Thursday and Friday of this week to give us an insight into the local livestock community. After a preliminary meeting with the Secretary to discern the structure, concerns and grand goals of the organization, the team trekked out to a nearby village to meet farmers in the field. Interviews with rural farmers provided new depth to our understanding and insight of the need for and benefits of the Mandalay Livestock Federation. Furthermore, the visit proved to us the entrepreneurial spirit of the people.

The team visits a chicken / fish farm to interview farmers

The farm that we went to was half chicken farm and half fish farm. The chickens were stored in coops that hung above the water, allowing the chicken droppings to provide feed to the fish. These sorts of holistic systems, born out of necessity and not novelty, are imperative for keeping costs down and the sustainability of the sector in the future.  Later in the week, we were able to use information from these meetings to personalize a workshop for the members of the Mandalay Livestock Federation on best business practices as well as facilitate an interactive strategic planning session. These sessions are imperative to providing the background and structural information necessary for us to create a business plan for them in the near future. 

Darren teaches a workshop on communications to the Mandalay Livestock Federation leadership

TK had more in mind than just business.  He took us on a tour of the best sites of the city, including the Kuthodaw Paya, an ancient pagoda, which boasts the world’s largest book, the complete text of the Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism’s most sacred text. It is inscribed on 729 marble slabs and housed in shrines that span the expanse of the property. We also visited the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge, as well as the pagoda at the top of Mandalay hill. My personal favorite visit was to the Shwenandaw Monastery, a teak monastery still in use, which was eerily beautiful and provided much needed respite from the vibrant streets beyond its walls.