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Kyaik Phee Lan Village, Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar.
We are transitioning from the wet season to ‘winter’. Rain still falls intermittently.

On a plot of vacant land amid forest and plantations, a group of villagers sweat under the heat of the midday sun, straining to shape bamboo slats. They are building a roof. The villagers are in training; learning the basic skills of bamboo construction. Today they have left their daily work tending betelnut, rubber and fruit plantations to gather in Kyaik Phee Lan and learn this new skill.

Not only locals are in attendance. Among the concentrating group are individuals from all over the region who have come to learn about bamboo construction.

Saw Ye is one of them; he’s from Myanmar’s Karen Department of Health and Welfare, and this is the second time he has come to develop his bamboo constructions skills, and with good reason; bamboo is a sustainable, versatile resource with the potential to bring significant benefits to rural communities. His department is under the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the unique ethnic armed group in Myanmar and partner of WWF Myanmar. He came from Hlaing Bwe as he is interested in this training. Hlaing Bwe Township is over 9 hours drive from Dawei and he came with his other colleagues by their office car. And then 2 hours drive to Kyaik Phee Lan from Dawei again.

He was concentrating hard to forge a groove in a bamboo slat when we approached him. “I have gained a lot knowledge during this course,” he said. “I will share what I have learned with my community.”

Teaching at today’s course are representatives from Pounamu, a company committed to developing Myanmar’s bamboo industry, here in collaboration with WWF and the Business Innovation Facility. The idea is to systematically erect bamboo constructions in locations where this resource grows abundantly, demonstrating its versatility and potential to support sustainable livelihoods. Bamboo experts from Indonesia, where bamboo is already integral to the lives of rural communities, are also here to share their insight.

“We decided to set up cooperate with BIF to provide technical support to the communities to nurture, maintain and build using bamboo, with a view to developing sustainable bamboo forestry practices here. Bamboo is readily available in the area, so all villages are invited to the training - anyone interested is welcome to join!”

“This village has abundant bamboo, and the market potential for this material is significant. The issue is there’s no technique for growing, harvesting and processing,” says Zin Lin Tun, Forest Officer for WWF-Myanmar.

“The training will bring big benefits both in terms of business opportunity and environmental conservation,” he added.
Back on site, U Khun Myat Min Thu, from Pounamu explains what’s happening.
“We’re using bamboo slats in this construction, explaining the form, measurements we need and finally how to put it together. Once we’ve demonstrated, everyone can do it themselves. This means they can learn and build at the same time.”
With the generator clacking and spluttering under the boiling sun, it’s time to break for lunch. Everyone downs tools, taking a step back to admire the structure beginning to take form.

The whole village of Kyaik Phee Lan is excited to see the final product; a building funded by WWF-Myanmar that will serve as a communal area for the whole community to enjoy.

Saw Demo (we’ve met him before), the village’s youth leader said, “I’m really proud of what we have done, and to be part of this team. This building will be the pride of the village, and it will be very useful too!” by gazing this constructing bamboo building.

WWF-Myanmar has been working to reduce illegal logging and wildlife poaching in Tanintharyi by supporting local businesses and helping communities to develop sustainable livelihoods using community forestry and non-timber forest products.