Violent conflict broke out in northern Myanmar (also known as Burma) in June and October 2012, leaving 140 people dead and forcing 115,000 people to flee their homes. Rakhine state is home to two distinct population groups divided along ethnic and religious lines, and the recent outbreak of violence has further polarized these two groups and disrupted the fragile economic ties they had once established.

Currently over 75,000 people remain displaced from their homes, with many living in make-shift tents and struggling to feed their families. Although there has been a recent reduction in poverty in Myanmar due to an increasing openness of the governing military regime, it remains one of the poorest countries in the region, and the northern Rakhine state is one of the poorest in the country. This area is also prone to natural disasters like cyclones, floods and landslides and its remoteness limits its economic development. The current conflict has left many of the displaced families in extremely vulnerable conditions.

The displaced communities that World Renew’s project will target are of Bangladeshi origin who have lived in Myanmar for decades but have never been allowed to register as citizens and therefore are not receiving government assistance. These internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Myanmar and the communities hosting them are facing extreme food shortages and are increasingly dependent on food aid from international organizations. Most of these families do not have a means to generate income or support themselves.

World Renew is seeking support for a locally-based organization that plans to provide more sustainable access to food and fuel for cooking. The project will focus on teaching communities to use large bags (often food aid bags) to create vegetable gardens, a technique called “multi-story gardening” and training community members in the production of fuel-efficient stoves.

The project will also supply the community with fruit tree seedlings that will be grown in a nursery and used for local consumption and for sale in neighbouring markets. In an effort to reduce deforestation, fast-growing trees will be planted for use as firewood.

It is not yet clear when the displaced families will be able to return to their homes, but the hope is that they will one day return with new knowledge for growing and preparing food in a more sustainable way and that these families will become part of a growing economy in Myanmar.