After a long trip (20 hrs flying & 9 hrs layover) we arrived in Yangon in the very early hours of Monday morning and were met by Mabel, our intrepid interpreter. Less than 12 hours later, jet lag be damned, we walked into our first meet and greet with the Winrock staff at the country office. Once there, we met our main project contact, Winrock Country Director Dr. Ai Thanda Kyaw, as well as technical officer Dr. Thet Khaing (TK), who will accompany us on much of our work. We also had a mandatory security briefing with Tim May who has been in-country with Winrock promoting "Value Chains for Rural Development" since last year.  Our immediate concern was his admonishment that we must wear our seatbelts in this country and beware of the lack of sidewalks and careening motorists since the #1 admission to the hospital is a result of traffic and pedestrian accidents.  (Pictured: Team Myanmar meets with Winrock Country Director Dr. Ai Thanda Kyaw and other Winrock volunteers)

Dr. Ai was instrumental in providing us with a more nuanced breakdown of the expectations of our primary clients the Myanmar Livestock Federation (MLF) and the myriad Associations under their umbrella since she is a Veterinarian and a member of the Executive Committee of the MLF.  She also gave us a clearer picture of some of the potential issues we may encounter such as the lack of accurate data for livestock herds and the inability to efficiently gather new data post-Cyclone Nargis (2008).  It also seems that communication up and down the value chain does not exist and may be an area to focus some effort on.

Of great interest to us was the chance to meet other short term Winrock teams in the office working on different projects in the Fisheries and Waste Management (composting) sectors and to gain their input as to their experiences in the field and the challenges and triumphs they have faced since they have been in-country.  They were all professors in their field from various regions in the U.S. from Hawaii to Florida and described their experiences as eye-opening and instrumental in developing their connection to the developing world.

As a group, our eyes are wide open, and we seem to have adapted well to the transplant from Phoenix. With our first full day over and a chance for some reinvigorating rest, the team was ready to meet and greet with members of the Executive Committees of the MLF and several sub-associations (Broiler chickens & Dairy) to establish the coming schedule and determine which associations may benefit the most from our training modules.

Oh, and just to note the fact that internet access is extremely slow, it takes multiple minutes to open Gmail and transferring files to/from Google drive takes an eternity. I guess we better be prepared to bite the bullet and crash the Wi-Fi abundant cappuccino bars at the five star hotels.  

 About the Project

USAID-Funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program was approved by Congress in 1985 and is operated by Winrock International in eight countries in Asia and Africa. Our involvement reflects the needs for technical assistance in Myanmar in business acumen and organizational capacity building. The team will be working with associations in the Livestock and Dairy Sector that are part of the family of associations under the Myanmar Livestock Federation.