"My dreams came true.." - Business Innovation Competition in Shan State, Myanmar - a success story
“My dreams came true..” states Myo Myat Thu (age 31) from Shan State, winner of third prize in the 2015 Business Innovation Competition organized by GIZ in cooperation with the SME Development Centre in Taunggyi. “I come from a smallholding farming family, but due to the lack of reliable water resources, I wasn’t able to cultivate the land economically”. Myo Myat Thu wanted to start his own business as a vegetable grower to support his wider family, however access to finance and business technical know-how were significant barriers. The limited water resources in his region forces farmers to use chemicals excessively to reach sufficient production volumes, however the market increasing demands organic or at least less chemically grown vegetables – locally called “safe food”.
After conducting some local research he found the only solution to be an agricultural innovation: drilling a deep well and building a water cistern, so he decided to enter the Business Innovation Competition with his idea in early 2015. This well and cistern would solve his irrigation problem and serve as a model for his neighbours. Myo Myat Thu developed a convincing Business Plan and was awarded third prize to supporting the construction of a 78 metre deep tube well and a 54 cubic metre water cistern. The prize included in-kind construction costs worth around US$ 2,000 and now allows him to reduce the use of chemicals significantly, as well as producing organic carrots, beetroots and pumpkins. Some of his neighbours followed his example and are now producing an increasing amount of organics.
His business model is built on two pillars – cooperation with a seed company that provides providing seeds and sprouts for 4 types of lettuce, eggplants, zucchini, carrots, beetroot, red cabbage and cauliflowers; the company then guarantees to purchase the produce. His products are then sold mainly to hotels in the Inle Lake region ensuring that Myanmar and international tourist can enjoy regional products with minimal chemicals. In addition he also uses his own seeds, selling cabbage, potatoes and pumpkins at the local market. Since starting his family business in September 2015, he was able to make a profit of around US$ 110 per month and expects a constant growth in the future based on his growing experience and an increase in know-how and market outreach.
“In addition to starting the new business, I have learned a lot from the Business Innovation Competition, which provided us with useful knowledge on how to run a business and how to prepare a realistic business plan” emphasized Myo Myat Thu, who had joined the training sessions and enjoyed mentoring by experienced businessmen during the start-up of his smallholding.
Now he has started to create a network for “safe food farming” in his region, aiming to cooperate with others who see the opportunity for organic farming. He thanked SMEDC and GIZ for the very valuable support (both financial and knowledge capacity) on behalf of his local community and he is convinced that “safe food farming” has a great potential and a bright future in Shan State.