Myanmar (formally known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and still referred to as Burma by the United States, the name by which the country was known before its renaming in 1989) is the 25th most populous country in the world (World Bank, 2015) and is located in Southeast Asia, sharing a border with five other nations (Fig. 1). The country’s area of about 67.6 million hectares is similar to the state of Texas (69.5 million hectares). But with a population of about 54 million [compared with about 27 million in Texas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015)], Myanmar is much more densely populated. After a protracted period of military dictatorship, this country has been undergoing political transformation in recent years which culminated in the rise of the National League for Democracy during their 2015 election. After decades of isolation from the western world because of systemic human rights violations, recent reforms have resulted in many economic and political sanctions being lifted from the country (Steinberg, 2015). This result, in turn, will provide new opportunities for collaboration between Myanmar and the Western world.
With its competitive advantages, such as climate, natural, and labor resources, and proximity to markets, Myanmar’s agricultural sector has immense potential to contribute to overall economic growth in the country, a potential that is yet to be fully reached (Beed and Bahala, 2017; Raitzer et al., 2015). Agricultural development is also crucial in allowing Myanmar to reach food security in ways that will improve lives while expanding economic growth. Horticulture will be an important component for achieving food security and improving human nutrition. Although regional climates in the country range from tropical monsoon to hot semiarid, Myanmar’s precipitation is seasonal and dictated by monsoonal patterns with average annual rainfall ranging from about 5000 mm in the wettest areas to about 1000 mm in drier regions such as central Myanmar (FAO, 2010). The country’s reasonably good water resources, if managed properly, should be supportive of sustainable horticultural production. Furthermore, much of the country is frost free. With changes in global climate, Myanmar is experiencing increases in overall rainfall yet decreased rainfall in some regions, increases in average temperatures, rising sea levels, and a remarkably high occurrence and intensification of extreme weather events. Based on data from 2015, Myanmar’s Climate Risk Index (which rates the impacts of climate change events such as flooding or storms to life, health, and the economy) is rated at 47.7 on a 100 point scale, compared with 77 for the overall risk index for the Southeast Asia region (Kreft et al., 2017). With the country’s limited preparedness for such changes, the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance was formed in 2012 to infuse climate change mitigation and resilience strategies into public policy and programs (Global Climate Change Alliance, 2016).
The purposes of this article are to briefly review the current status of agricultural higher education and horticultural production in Myanmar, and to outline future opportunities for horticultural research and education. The article is based on a workshop presentation made at the 2016 ASHS annual meeting in Atlanta (Davis and Bost, 2016).
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