Enabling rubber traceability & supporting biodiversity for rubber farmers in Myanmar
Rubber has long been a strategic crop for Myanmar – ever since it was first introduced by the British colonial government in the early 20th century. Rubber prices have witnessed a steady rise since the 1990s, leading to an expansion of smallholder production throughout the southern region. According to data, smallholder rubber production effectively alleviated rural poverty, drove rural development, and paved the way for livelihood stability in Southern Myanmar. Research by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimates that by 2022, Myanmar is likely to emerge as the 7th biggest rubber producer globally, contributing to almost 7% of global natural rubber production.
That said, numerous social, economic, and environmental challenges threaten the viability of rubber production. The most pressing problems for the rubber sector include frequent price crashes, low-quality rubber production, and poor productivity of plantations. Environmental problems further exacerbate the issue. One, rubber is often planted on lands earlier used for agricultural production, jeopardizing food security. Additionally, rubber often replaces forested land, reducing rural landscapes' biodiversity and carbon sequestration prospects. The use of herbicides often leaches into rural waterways. The extensive and rapid development of rubber plantations is leading to drier and hotter local climates resulting in the loss of biodiversity and the habitats of diverse endangered species of birds and animals. Finally, the expansion of plantations illegally into natural forests results in considerable environmental degradation.
To tackle these challenges, the World Wide Fund for Nature partnered with Cropin in 2020 as part of the Sustainable Business Programme, to create a sustainable rubber supply chain. The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works on wilderness preservation and targets to pare human impact on the environment. Through its efforts, WWF in partnership with Myanmar’s Department of Agriculture aims to elevate Myanmar as a key player in the global sustainable rubber market. This ongoing project has impacted 3000 farmers.
Top challenges of rubber production in Myanmar
Rubber production in Myanmar is characterized by multi-dimensional challenges for farmers and the rubber industry at large. Additional challenges include long working hours, meager compensation for plantation workers, child labor, and inadequate compliance to occupational safety norms to meet market demands.
Ensuring that the rubber industry adopts sustainable agricultural practices is the foremost concern for WWF. The path to achieving this will be by curbing the low value of labor and eliminating child labor from the rubber industry. The end goal is to reduce deforestation. The process will drive economic gains in the industry rampant with controversial labor practices.
Leveraging traceability and AI to ensure landscape conservation and biological diversity
WWF, in partnership with Cropin, launched a project in Myanmar for rubber farmers in 2020. The objective was to leverage Cropin’s AI-powered platform to digitize the rubber value chain and monitor farmers based on geospatial coordinates. Cropin also enabled auto verification to detect leaks. The two types of verification included space and time-based verification of quantity brought in by each grower and block-neutrality test.
Satellite monitoring provided real-time visibility into deforestation status and/or progress. To ensure environmental sustainability, the users could overlay the coordinates of the rubber supply chain with the deforestation hot spots. Plus, users were able to identify and monitor illegal log-ins as well as identify and monitor non-sustainable farming activities (if any) on-field. Pilots were conducted to check for viability and drive scale to ensure sustainable farming and prevent deforestation. The objective was to scale up implementation after successfully completing the pilot program.
Knowledge management and 24x7 advisory
Cropin enabled many advisory initiatives to empower farmers during the rubber farming process. It provided data organization and platform management training to field officers to ensure effortless product adoption. This enabled easy access and helped them update their activities on the app. Cropin monitored data collection activities to check for activation.
Under the initiative, product feature update alerts were shared with farmers, and the field team provided training on best practices for rubber crops. Cropin extended 24x7 assistance to farmers through weather-based crop advisories and promoted climate-smart agriculture. In addition, farmers benefited from timely and dependable pest and disease alerts.
That’s not all. The program enabled seamless two-way communication with the farmers to drive farmer engagement. Product user manuals were shared with field officers to guide in rubber farming. The platform's multilingual support for easy adaptability and seamless integration to the local context was the most significant advantage.
The real-time sustainability impact
A total of 3000 growers are registered in the system, along with four collection centers and one factory. With the use of hand-held devices at the collection centers and the factory, critical transaction details with farmers are captured in real-time. Furthermore, a web application with insightful and data-rich sustainability and traceability reports is provided to the management team. This enables them to make informed decisions and take proactive measures as needed.
Founded in 2010, Cropin is a global Agtech pioneer who has built the world's first purpose-built industry cloud for Agriculture - Cropin Cloud, an Intelligent Agriculture Cloud.
Cropin Cloud enables various stakeholders in the agri-ecosystem to leverage digitization and predictive intelligence to make effective decisions that increase farming efficiency, scale productivity, manage risk and environmental changes and enhance sustainability. Cropin has been instrumental in creating the global Agtech category and bringing advanced technologies together to transform farmers' lives worldwide through partnerships with agri-businesses, governments, and development agencies across 56 countries. They helped the ecosystem to eliminate the uncertainties associated with farming and made it predictable, traceable, and sustainable.
Cropin Cloud combines cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, satellite imagery, and remote sensing. It helps derive real-time actionable insights to build a connected and sustainable agri-ecosystem that can benefit farmers, farming companies, agri-input providers, food processing companies, retailers, financial service providers, governments, and development agencies.