Through Food For Work activities, community members extended the 40 metre long dyke to 150 metres. Copyright: WFP/WFP Myanmar
Food-For-Work projects are an integral part of WFP Myanmar’s operation. The idea is simple - WFP pays workers with food to build infrastructure which contributes to a hunger-free future for their communities. In a disaster-prone country like Myanmar, building and repairing flood-prevention mechanisms is vital to ensuring communities are as well protected as possible.
Zaung Taw Kan is a small village of about 800 people, around 20 miles south-west of Chauk township in Magway Division, central Myanmar. Since 2006, heavy rainfall has caused the local river level to rapidly rise every year, flooding the village and the surrounding area. The unexpected floods and strong currents meant that many villagers lost agricultural land, valuable commodities, entire houses, and precious livestock.
After the waters subsided in 2009, the residents of Zaung Taw Kan began the slow task of rebuilding their community. Concerned that they could easily lose everything all over again, the community itself decided to construct a dyke to prevent similar flooding in the future. Forty metres long, the dyke was finished that year. However, over the coming months it was realised that whilst the dyke was a good investment, it did not offer the complete protection from floodwaters that villagers needed.
Residents of the community requested assistance from local NGO and WFP partner World Vision in Chauk for advice on how to strengthen their preparedness initiative. A World Vision/WFP assessment team was dispatched to Zaung Taw Kan which recommended that the dyke be reinforced to offer maximum protection. The suggestion was to extend the dyke to by another 110 metres to protect the village during the next rainy season.
WFP and World Vision designed a Food-for-Work programme where villagers were paid in food rations to work on extending the dyke. 120 people were directly involved in the construction project from April 2011 for two months. For each day worked, WFP and World Vision gave a 3 kg food ration to support each workers’ family. In total, 13.5 tons of rice were given out to participants and their families.
Less than two months after the extension was completed, seasonal rainfall caused the Zaung Taw Kan river to rise again. However, this year the dyke offered complete protection to the surrounding land and households and the scenes of destruction from 2006 were not repeated. In a thank you note to WFP, the Zaung Taw Kan community expressed their joy that the project that they had initiated and completed had saved their village from another disaster.