A Patchwork of Family Farms
Travel restrictions, language barriers and a challenging infrastructure mean few present-day visitors to Myanmar (formerly Burma) veer far off the well-traveled tourist triangle connecting the capital Yangon (formerly Rangoon), with the temples of Pagan and the former capital of Mandalay. Between 2015-17,
Most recently, in 2017 served as a photojournalist and as researcher on an assessment of a U.N. program providing agricultural loans that rural households are using to modernize their farms. Warmly welcomed into dozens of households over the course of her travels, she discovered that rural Myanmar comprises a patchwork of family farms. In common with traditions in many rural areas, women are responsible for growing horticultural crops that are planted on small plots close to the house, such as the tasty leafy vegetables used to make the delicious, spicy salads that accompany most meals. Likewise, the male family members focus on the extensively produced staples that are the mainstay of family diets, especially rice. Everywhere, the families she met worked in harmonic unison to meet the struggles they face.
Nonetheless, the omnipresent military régime that has controlled the country for decades looms ominously over everything. Prior to her visit with the U.N., her team was required to obtain permits with official sponsorship, a lengthy process that required submitting a detailed itinerary listing every site they planned to visit, even noting the time of the visits, and the exact addresses of every hotel where they would sleep. Sometimes, the haphazard nature of enforcement had comic effect. At one point, during a trip to visit markets in a restricted area of Shan State for which they held permits, a local U.N. colleague accompanying them received a short phone call. “Unbeknownst to us, government ‘minders’ where discreetly following us to monitor our movements. However, they couldn’t keep up with our Land Rover on the little motorcycle they had, so they called her to ask us to slow down a bit.”