Sumprabum Villagers Face Hunger Amid Rice Shortages

Villagers residing along the eastern side of the Malikha River in Sumprabum Township are grappling with food insecurity due to soaring inflation and a poor rice crop last year caused by pest infestations in the area of Kachin State.

Pastor Ja Yaw, who has a Christian congregation in the area, said that rodents destroyed people’s farms in 2022, and they couldn’t save any seeds. “Even though rodents didn’t destroy too many paddy farms this year, people are still facing food shortages.” Instead of living off their own rice, they have to buy it, which now costs almost 300,000 kyat (about $150 per bag).

Another problem is that the ten villages are located in a remote and mountainous area of the township in eastern Kachin State, where the roads are particularly poor, especially during the wet season.

Mali Hkrang Walawng, Shaning Hkrang, Htingbu Kawng, Hpaw Lang, Nhkrai, Mali Nmai Walawng, Nbau Dau, Ndup Kahtawng, Npawn, and Hkahku Um Ga are all running low on essentials.

“We are struggling to purchase a bag of rice here,” said a man from Hkahku Um Ga. The cost is three times higher than in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

The mountain villages, located upstream of the Malikha River, are in an area controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation and not by the Military Council.

Although some religious groups have extended a helping hand and provided some food, it’s not enough for everyone. Some families have already run out of food and were forced to move in with their relatives in Myitkyina.

“Transportation costs have drastically increased due to rising fuel prices,” Ja Yaw said. He explained that to deliver rice to the area, it must travel by both land and water routes to Sumprabum town. From there, it needs to be carried on foot to the villages. For example, they have to pay 4,000 kyat per bag to deliver it by car from Myitkyina to the village of Tayang Zup costs. They have to pay an additional 5,000 kyat to transport it across the river from the village by a small boat. To reach Sumprabum town, the rice needs to be loaded onto a larger water vessel and travel for 2-3 days, which further increases the price.

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