The Trade and Investment facilitation Department of Mekong Institute, in cooperation with the MI LED-EWEC project team in Myanmar jointly conducted a Evaluation cum the Way Forward workshop on February 25, 2015 in Hap-an, Kayin State of Myanmar. The workshop was the last training cycle of the modular training program on "Entrepreneurship Development and SMEs Promotion", which was designed to promote SMEs in Maize sector in the Kayin State under the "Capacity Development for Inclusive and Equitable Growth, GMS" project with the support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
From the previous two activities of the modular program completed in 2014- (i) training and (ii) action plan implementation – 22 participants gained the necessary knowledge and information on business management, finance, marketing, source of assistance, incentives and subsidies, and procedure, rules and regulations to set up business ventures; and the concept of local SMEs development and promotion in maize and allied sectors. The knowledge was transferred to 25 more SMEs owners and prospective entrepreneurs through a local workshop after the training. With MI's guidance, a total of 18 business plans were designed by the entrepreneurs during the two activities in 2014.
Subsequent to above activities, MI conducted a one-day workshop to follow up and evaluate the progress of the business plan implementation and to find the readiness of the key stakeholders for SMEs promotion in maize sector. A total of 19 participants attended the workshops, representing the State Agricultural Department, Department of Trade Promotion, Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection, State Agricultural Producer Association, Small and Medium Industrial Development Bank, Universities, owners of starts-up, existing SMEs, and prospective entrepreneurs and leader of maize farmers.
The workshop reflected the progress of the previous 18 business plans implementation and found that SMEs didn't involve much in the maize sector. Participants explained that high risk for investing a new crop; low maize plantation and outputs, absent maize market players and linkage were the main concerns from the business owners in Kayin. In order to gain the concerns of SMEs, MI introduced the maize value chain in Myanmar and the potential market in Kayin, which gave participants the space to brain-storming every business possibilities along the maize value chain. The presentation and brain storming successfully spurred participants' great business interests in maize sector, such as maize trading, business partnership with maize growers for seeds supply and output purchase, and investment in value-added maize products etc.
In order to lead participants' interests to be more feasible and link with MI's intervention plan, MI gave an overview of the EWEC project in Myanmar in details - status, remained challenges, intervention plan in 2015 and expected outputs and outcomes. Participants were then guided to assess the needs in terms of capacity building and support on: a) improving technology and quality conformation from maize growing, harvesting to post-harvesting; b) building market linkage to give confidence to farmers; c) policy support for increasing land area for maize growing.
The workshop concluded with a summary of the main points as well as a special focus on the recommendations towards proposed intervention activities in 2015 and long-term to promote maize business sector in the Kayin State. The recommended activities in the short term are as below:
Provide pricing trainings and support to farmers so as to set a minimum and guaranteed price for farmers by negotiating with local major maize buyers to secure trust of farmers on maize growing.Provide training for staff of BDS providers on search and provide domestic and international maize market information, especially price, for local farmers and traders.Facilitate farmers to sign secured agreement and contract with local buyers and seed suppliers on maize output collection with fair market price and fair buying policiesProvide training to farmers on seeds select grow/harvest technology and output quality control. Organize business matching to strengthen the current linkage and collaboration between local seeds companies and local maize buyers as well as develop networks with new buyers and suppliersConduct stakeholder's workshop to identify solutions for transportation and marketing of maize.