The world has witnessed significant, exciting and sudden political changes in Myanmar over the past couple years. The country is at a critical phase in its social and economic transformation, and there is enormous opportunity for development economic growth.

CSD is building a Sustainable Development Program to provide policy support for the government, local NGOs and the donor community, accelerating growth that is both socially inclusive, sustainable and mindful of climate risks and opportunities.

With extensive natural resource endowments, increasing foreign direct investment, and a central location in Asia, Myanmar is poised to experience substantial economic development gains in the coming years. However, widespread poverty and food insecurity – particularly in rural areas – as well as volatile ethnic tensions and subsequent outbreaks of violence, threaten to undermine development. Vulnerability to malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases remains higher in Myanmar than in neighboring countries. Malnutrition rates remains a problem, particularly in the rural areas.  The country also faces significant climate related disaster risks, such as frequent floods and tropical cyclones in the Irrawaddy Delta and livelihood destroying droughts in the central Dry Zone. Increased food security, climate sensitive planning and equitable rural economic development are critical to enabling and sustaining Myanmar’s transformation.

Exploring Opportunities for Sustainable Development in Myanmar

Building a Foundation for Sustainable Development

CSD contributed to a USAID-funded effort by the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics to conduct a diagnostic assessment of the country’s agricultural sector. The overall project included research and field work to analyze and make recommendations on Myanmar’s trends in food security and agriculture, the institutional environmental, future trajectory for rural transformation and strategic implications of agricultural policies and investments.

We are working with the MSU team to conduct a biophysical analysis of the country which will provide a solid foundation for understanding the factors that affect the agricultural sector in Myanmar and will help inform recommendations for decision making and policy.

The second deliverable is an assessment of rice productivity in Myanmar and recommendations on a suite of strategies to improve productivity and competitiveness. While Myanmar was once the world’s largest rice exporter, production has stagnated and the country is now a relatively minor exporter in the global markets. However, the nation’s export potential remains high. Our analysis and recommendations aim to help the government and donors harness Myanmar’s advantageous conditions and leverage rice in addressing food insecurity and poverty in the country.

The project activities have been designed and implemented in close collaboration with the Myanmar Development Resources Institute and other local partners. The goal is to build a coalition of partners to support targeted food security investments, policies and knowledge sharing mechanisms.

In addition to the agriculture-focused work, CSD is exploring the institutional and policy landscape necessary to enable an early warning system (EWS) for climate-related disaster risks. Through data collection, field work and policy and institutional mapping, we hope to develop a framework for implementing an effective EWS. This system would improve the ability of the government and affected stakeholders, at the community level, to manage critical climate risks.

In our experience, integrated solutions to sustainable development must be cultivated at local, national, regional and global levels. With this in mind, we are developing a Myanmar Sustainable Development Program that would leverage the international expertise across the Earth Institute and Columbia University to support the country at this critical time. Such a program would serve as a resource for learning, innovation, advocacy, actionable research, and local capacity building in sustainable development. We maintain that an impartial institutional platform in Myanmar is necessary for understanding the critical challenges and opportunities, and for catalyzing action to achieve impact on sustainable development strategies.


For more information about CSD’s work in Myanmar, please contact Kye Baroang.