Karenni state migrant farmers

[Version française ici]

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On the outskirts of Loikaw,  near Htay Ngar Lyar village, city life is far away already. The countryside is peaceful and silence is only disturbed by birds or swimmers bathing in the river. It is almost dusk and farmers are coming back home. Around ten shacks lie here, between two fields.

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Around twenty people are living there, for three months. They are mostly couples, even if some kids can be seen. The living conditions are precarious but at least the migrants own a small solar panel.

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They come from Popa mount region, not far from Bagan. They are Burmese, not Karenni, and each year they come to Kayah State to work as farm workers. That kind of camp is frequently seen alongside paddy fields.

These workers told us around eighty people from the same region came to Kayah State to work. But there is a lot more farm workers from central Myanmar. They plough the fields and earn 1.000 Kyats (about 1 dollar) per furrow.

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« There is no job during this season », they say. So traveling hundreds of kilometers to find a job becomes more profitable. However, Karenni State is not more flourishing than their home state, it is even the poorest of the country. But it is also less populated and workforce is missing.

Coming here to work ends up being a solution worth considering for Burmese farmers, when their own lands are not enough to survive and harvest time is over. Even if it means living in tents and small huts for three months near the fields, far from their homes, and completely isolated from the local people.

Carole Oudot and Matthieu Baudey

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