Myanmar is located in South East Asia and it has seven regions and seven states. Kayin State is one of these states and is located in south eastern Myanmar. Hpa-An is the capital city of Kayin State, home of the Kayin ethnic group. It has a population of 1,347,732. The Kayin ethnic group has its own language and literature as well as a rich cultural heritage. Kayin state has been facing civil war and conflict since 1947. Due to the politically unstable situation, the communities in the state have been neglected for decades in the provision of basic need services by government. Therefore, most of infrastructure in the area is either in a state of serious disrepair or non-existent. Communities faced cruelty and forced labor under the rule of the former military government. Schools and institutions were taken by force and many were destroyed. As a consequence of civil war, villagers are not only isolated by the lack of good roads, telephone lines, electricity and difficult terrain in their rural villages, but additionally by the fear that prevents them from accessing the infrastructure and services that have been developed by the Military in and around HpaAn Township.
Instability in the area has also caused many to migrate to Thailand. Some flee for safety but increasingly they go looking for work. A consequence of migration is a high number of women and young children left behind in villages devoid of men and young people eligible for work elsewhere. Throughout Kayin state and especially along the Thailand/Myanmar border, there are a high number of internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees fleeing to Thailand. Even though some areas in Kayin state are under ceasefire agreements they continue to be exploited and many people are still fleeing their villages. Many communities in Kayin state are themselves struggling with poor food security, week civil society and limited economic opportunities and living in impoverished communities.
The livelihood of the people of Kayin State is based on agriculture, including growing paddy, vegetables, rubber, teak and taungya plantations. Traditionally farmers used to grow with organic fertilizers, but in recent times farmers have been encouraged to use chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds to increase yield. Due to chemical fertilizers and GMO seeds, the cost of investing in paddy growing is increasing rapidly while the quality of soil fertility is decreasing. The farmers are also losing collective labor forces due to the large scale migration of the younger generation. Farmers depend on money lenders or seed holders and landlords to borrow money and they pay high interest rates to cover labor costs. After harvesting time, farmers would like to keep their paddy to get more income but the traders and money lenders push them to sell at a very low price. Farmers must sell the paddy to pay their debt and receive the needed capital again for the next season. Within this context, Women for the World has been working with the farming community to increase their agriculture output.