I suppose I will be the luckiest person to be assigned to work with my professional fellow Mr.Chad Lee in his state department of agriculture. The agriculture is the main economy of our country and it contributes 36.36% of our GDP in 2010 according to IMF data and at least 70% of people live in rural areas of our country. So, one can easily imagine that how agriculture plays an important role in our economy. Moreover, the aim of my visit to USA is to learn better practices which have been achieved by farmers of Montana State and to share our own experiences of problems and issues we are currently facing in implementing our project activities.
Mr. Chad Lee is a very resourceful person and I have learnt that he has won two times for outstanding employee prize and his contribution for the development of lives of farmers in Montana is amazing and the strategy he worked with impressed me very much. When the day he came to meet with in Missoula, on 15th April, he made an appointment for me with Mr. Travis Greenwalt, a consulting economist at Cardno Entrix, who is quite taller than I am (almost as tall as a tree – nearly 7 ft). According to our schedule, we have planned to spend about an hour there. But, even spending about three hours there, it is hard for me to leave Travis farm because he is knowledge person and discussed many strategies we can apply for our country by giving different countries experiences and provided me with some research paper for processing of agriculture produce. It helps me getting some basic ideas either to conduct the research or to find the ways for processing of our products rather than selling the fresh and the pictures in his report explain the machines that require for each processing and how they work with detail diagrams. Another person I met on the same day was Ms. Annie Heuscher( Land Use Program Manager) and she explained about their farmers incubator program and land link program. Here again, I found myself the room to replicate same sort of work in our project areas, to train farmers with scientific method, not just the ways they traditionally did, let them get the benefit from the farm they do and incubator project will be going to initiate with some donor’s fund.
Mr. Chad Lee introduced me with his boss, his coworkers when I started my first day’s job in department of Agriculture and all the persons I met in the state department are very friendly and curious about our country’s economy and its relatedness to agriculture and the project I worked in and different NGO involved in assisting in farmers and functions of our department of agriculture. One interesting thing is that the main objective of our ministry of agriculture is to increase crop production while the mission of the state department is "to protect producers and consumers and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries" which have broader perspective than ours.
On second day of my job at Depart of Agriculture, Mr Chad Lee arranged to have me make a presentation about Myanmar Economy and Political perspectives and the findings of Vermont state’s farmer, Mr Howard of his farmer to farmer program under the fund of USAID program and 11 people including 3 from Department of Commerce. Department of Agriculture hosted us with Indian dal and some beverages. Due to the time limitation, just an hour, I could not discuss much about the ways we should try to solve the problems of our farmers. Wisely enough, Mr. Chad Lee instantly arranged to meet with persons from Department of commerce in order to explore and brainstorm the problems on Monday.
Dedicated absolutely himself to assist me achieving my goals, he tentative plan to visit his father farm, which is 90 miles away from Helena, become actual plan and he arrived to my host family house early on Sunday, although the road was fully covered by snow. After spending two hours drive, we reached into a house situated broad areas of land in Fairfield, where Chad’s parents live throughout their lives. They are very nice couple with charm, peace and tranquility and hosted us with rice, fried chicken and fried vegetables. The time not even the food is going to digest, Sr. Ken and Jr Chad brought me to learn their farm, more than 600 acres under the fall of snow. Soon after I just visited their shed where their agricultural machineries were put, I really realized that the big farmers in Montana state are like specialized companies in our countries and I have learnt that they have altogether 18 kinds of machineries, most of them were never seen before in my life.
Sr. Ken and Jr. Chad were patient enough to give full explanation of what I enquired and showed me three types of irrigation system used in their regions by driving each area. On Monday, We including my professional coordinator and his co-worker, Linda went to the Ministry of Commerce and brainstormed for about two hours and Mr. Carey Hester and Ms. Sara Warren both from Ministry of commerce attentively discussed different possible strategies that can work for the poor farmers of our country and we reached to a consensus that forming collective farmers groups are a good way for those farmers to escape from the influence of the traders and they can get more bargaining power for buying inputs, selling their produces and using their own transportation facilities. But social factors and business practices create challenges for change. Otherwise, accessing to new export market alone will not solve their low income problems, of course, traders will become better off and country’s GDP as a whole.
On Tuesday, Ms Nancy from Agriculture Department gave almost two hours of her valuable time to show us her Montana food mapping project in which all counties of Montana are included and the mapping includes six different categories such as producers, food manufacturer, wholesale food distributor, retail food distributor and food service and I had got an idea to develop such mapping in Myanmar which will be useful for different stakeholders. After that, Mr. Chad Lee explained me the USDA Cropscape satellite mapping of Montana fields to learn more about the crops he currently engaged in. I think working in Department of Agriculture is the best suit for me and the ideas to be adopted in our country becomes more and more and the discussion with resourceful Chad Lee are reserved for my personal adventure to implemented in my project when I returned back to home.