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As border trade with Thailand opens up in eastern Burma, and due to increasing cattle smuggling to the neighbouring country, farmers in Kawkareik township in the Karen state are now beginning to use machines instead of their traditional beasts of burden to harvest crops.
“The difference between using machinery and cattle is that with cattle you can’t get a lot of work done”, said farmer Maung Aye. “You can save time with combine harvesters. We really envied people who were using them.”
Previously local farmers only used buffaloes or oxen to plough their fields, but the new combine harvesters make it quicker and easier come harvest season.
“Using machinery is more progressive – also for the country – and more profitable,” said farmer Htet Aung. “Using cattle, you get a higher quality of rice and better soil, but it’s still more convenient to use the machines.”
Agriculture is the main industry in Burma and employs more than 70 percent of the workforce. Rice is the country’s main crop and naturally, the work is very dependent on monsoonal rains.
“Using the combine harvesters instead of cattle reduces waste and it’s faster, so it’s convenient with the weather – with the machines you can get the harvesting done before the rainy season,” said Htet Aung.
Though their cattle are now out of work, the farmers hope this new mechanised form of harvesting will bless them with higher yields and more profits.