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Protecting Communities Against Climate Change

Myanmar is home to the third-highest levels of deforestation in the world, and loses 1.3 million acres of forest per year, according to a report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

This leaves communities vulnerable to flooding, soil erosion and landslides, and puts increasing pressure on families to find enough wood to cook with, as trees continue to be cut down.

Families in Tae’ Mauk village in Rakhine State have started to change the way they manage their natural resources by using energy efficient stoves, which use less wood and are improving families health and finances.

Daw Hla Myint cooking lunch using her new, energy efficient stove.

Daw Hla Myint lives in Tae’ Mauk village in Rakhine State and cares for her two elderly parents. During the week Plan International’s parenting education and nutrition sessions are held in her home. With so many people in her house, Daw Hla Myint is always cooking and enjoys having a house full of people.

At fifty years old, she’s unable to make the one hour walk into the forest to collect firewood, which she uses to cook every meal. Instead, she buys wood from a nearby store, although it’s becoming harder for people to find.

“Very few people here can afford to buy firewood. Before I used 8 – 10 bundles of firewood per day which cost 800 kyat (80 US cents). Even this small expense was a big burden for us. Most people here cannot afford it,” she explains.

Daw Hla Myint realizes that the forests around her village cannot last forever, and the current levels of deforestation will only harm her community in the long-term.

“People are cutting down a lot of trees, so they have to walk further each day to find wood. This takes more time and they have less time to do other things. This also causes big problems for us in the rainy season. We need the trees to protect us from landslides and floods, and this will get worse the more we cut down these trees,” she explained.

A cleaner way of cooking

For the last six months, Daw Hla Myint has been using a new, energy efficient stove that has reduced her wood usage, allowed her to save money and made her family healthier.

“The Lanthit Foundation (Plan International Myanmar’s partner) provided us with training on how to make new stoves. Five people attended and they have trained other people in the village to make these, and they are now selling them to others. I bought mine for 2500 kyat ($2 USD).”

“Before, I was using up to 10 baskets of wood per day, and now I’m only using one. So far 20 families have these new stoves, but we want everyone to have them. There’s much less smoke than before. My parents are 80 and 83 years old, so this is much healthier for them. They also get less hot, produce less ash and are much safer than before,” Daw Hla Myint explains.

“When I used my old stove I was afraid of starting a fire in my house, but now I’m not worried about that. If everyone used them we would use a lot less wood and this would be much better for the environment around our village.”

Plan International Myanmar’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA) programme is working closely with communities to develop locally produced and low-cost solutions to mitigate the risks of climate change. Funded by Plan International Australia, the 4CA programme has supported communities to grow their own nurseries and install solar panels into homes alongside providing training on how to make energy efficient stoves.