Graduate Profile

U Htilo Elijah Modu

0520 Loikaw - Htilo's House

ARI Name: Htilo
at ARI: 2008
Country: MYANMAR
Home: Loikaw, Kayah State
Organization: Karuna Myanmar Social Service Center (CARITAS)
Position: Farm manger, trainer
Work area: Shin Phyu Tang village
Other Activities: Family farm

“I would like to be equal with the people in the area…I used to say to them that I am the leader of the rural, not the town.”

Though Htilo’s home and family are in the town of Loikaw, he spends most of his time up in the mountain village of Shin Phyu Tang, where he manages a 1,000 acre farm, owned by the Catholic Church. The farm’s main crop has long been fruits such as oranges, apples, mangos, jackfruit, bananas, and pineapple, but Htilo is slowly moving over to tea, cardamom, jackol beans, and pine trees, as he feels the soil and climate conditions are better suited to these. He is particularly excited about the cardamom, which he is also growing on his own farm, as it is easy to plant and grow and there is a good market for it in China. The tea is also doing well and he describes their method of growing it as “cow tea.” The cows are first released on the terraces to graze, clearing the grass and dropping their manure, and then the tea is planted. The plants last 100 years and the tea can be processed with their own simple equipment. Both tea and cardamom are grown as long term cash crops, with each of them needing a period of three years to produce.

 

In addition to bringing in income for the church, the farm also serves as a demonstration to farmers in the area. Most families have about 20 acres of land, and use three to nine acres for rice paddies, depending on the size of the family. They come to Htilo to see how he is farming and ask a lot of questions and he is eager to share techniques such as contouring the hillside or making wood vinegar for fertilizer and pest management. He also provides them with seeds at a low price. Some adapt quickly, but some are hesitant to change from their traditional practice of taungyar, which is shifting cultivation. Many farmers have shown a keen interest in cardamom and its potential to bring extra cash to the household. Htilo loves village life and enjoys sharing his knowledge with farmers. He feels the ARI rural leadership approach matches his context well, seeing himself, not as a person who gives commands, but as a person whom the people can easily and openly talk to. “I would like to be equal with the people in the area…I used to say to them that I am the leader of the rural, not the town.”