Proximity Designs operates in Myanmar, a country where 70 percent of the population relies upon land for their livelihoods. Since 2004, the organization has helped design and deliver affordable products and services to almost 700,000 rural families – and by doing so, its customers have seen an average annual income increase of 30 percent.
Proximity Designs helps farmers with technology that improves crop yields; it offers agronomy services, teaching farmers the complexities of seed selection, soil health, and fertilizer use; it provides low-interest rate loans to rural families who struggle to access capital; and it collaborates with research partners from academia and government to drive research-driven dialogue on public policy.
Today, Proximity Designs reaches 80% of Myanmar’s farming population – from the Ayeyarwady Delta to the central Dry Zone; from Lower Myanmar to the Shan hills. In the face of COVID-19, they’ve used their extensive reach to raise public health awareness and connect with families to better understand what exactly they need and how Proximity can design products and services to help them.
The operating environment in Myanmar is particularly dynamic and fast-moving at this stage of its emergence from five decades of isolation. The Chandler Foundation’s unrestricted funding has allowed us to respond in a timely manner and engage in the most high-impact activities rather than be stuck with an out-of-sync project plan. We think a dollar of unrestricted funding is significantly more valuable and impactful than a dollar of funding that is tied to an inflexible plan.
San San Maw lives with her five sisters in the Ayeyarwady Delta of southern Myanmar. Their livelihoods depend up the 27 acres of land they tend. As with so many farmers in the country, the potential of that land is limited by the quality of seeds put into it.
Proximity’s Farm Advisory Services taught San San Maw how she could identify high-quality seeds from the light, empty ones. All the process called for was an egg, a basin, a large net, and some water and salt. This “saltwater seed selection” process, where the useless seeds float and the high-quality ones sink, increased San San Maw’s yield by 8 percent – a benefit later shared by her neighbors, with whom San San Maw shared the technique.