Pyi Pyi Thant who studied a Master of Economics in Chaing Mai University talks about her survey research on links between physical, social and economic welfare in two different eco-regions of Myanmar - Kyaintali (in Rakhine State) and Bagan. Kyaintali is natural resource rich and yet has poor economic infrastructure. Meanwhile, Bagan has poor natural resources and relatively good economic infrastructure. What does this mean for community participation and attitudes related to environmental conservation and what is the economic importance of natural resources and local values?
(1) Even though there is good economic infrastructure such as roads, telecommunications, tourism attraction and markets, people in Bagan are not yet prosperous because of the lack of opportunity to freely decide on the type of crop that they want to grow. They are not yet using their infrastructure to its full potential.
(2) Comparing the two different eco-zones, people in Bagan have higher income than people in Kyaintali. But the income distribution was far more unequal in Bagan. There is higher average income but high poverty gap in Bagan, whereas in Kyaintali people are equally poor.
(3) Comparing the per capita consumption of food as physical welfare, people in Kyaintali (surprisingly) have higher consumption and less expenditure on food than people in Bagan. The main reason was that the forest near Kyaintali provides a common pool natural resource for the food in that region. Whereas the villagers in Bagan have no forest and depend on the very few common resources as pasture and village tree where they can get food.
(4) The water and other natural resource use are more equally used in Kyaintali because of the ‘in kind’ provision of the forest near the village.
(5) The attitude towards environmental conservation in Bagan is higher but there is less participation because there are NGOs working in that area for forest recovery. In Kyaintali, people do not understand much about the objectives of forest conservation but they have a high trust among each other and have a higher will to participate.
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