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The people of Rakhine State have suffered a long history of inter-communal conflict. Existing tensions between Buddhists and Muslims erupted into violent conflict in June and October 2012, resulting in massive population displacement and destruction of public and private properties, with many people injured or killed. The Myanmar military responded to quell the violence, imposing a state of emergency. Large numbers of people were displaced to IDP camps as well as spread out in host communities.
In this context, the Consortium of Dutch NGOs has sought to support early recovery, food security, agriculture, livelihoods and water and sanitation interventions so as to meet the basic needs of vulnerable communities in northern Rakhine. It led this EMMA study to investigate two critical market systems, potatoes and chemical fertilizers. The assessment focused on three geographic hubs within Buthidaung Township.
Potatoes are a key source of income and a staple food during the winter season for local households. Buthidaung potatoes are well known in Rakhine State. They are usually consumed locally throughout the year and exported during the harvest. Following the crisis, reduced food stocks and insufficient food security provisions have led households to consume the part of the potato crop that is normally kept for seedling supplies for the coming winter harvest season. Governmental economic measures have distorted the local economy and contributed to food insecurity. The added demand for potatoes from IDPs increases the pressure on local farmers to sell their potato crop beyond sustainable levels.
Households in Buthidaung have limited access to fertilizer because it is expensive, and they lack access to credit. Several Rakhine Buddhist traders have stopped their supply to Muslims since the crisis began. In addition, high levels of indebtedness, low levels of employment, stringent government policies and regulations and the corruption of local officials all interfere with local fertilizer markets.
This report offers a number of recommendations for humanitarian intervention. Among the most important are the distribution of vouchers for high energy food rations to vulnerable populations for households involved in casual labor and/or self employed; cash for work for populations that are involved in casual labor; cash grants for households to access vegetables and vegetable seeds; cash grants for households with access to land for purchase of production inputs; and model community savings and loan schemes or community micro-credit.