Helping Myanmar find the right environmental course

The cooperation between Myanmar and Norway is flourishing in the jungles of Asia. In the midst of Myanmar's spectacular nature, the Norwegian Environment Agency recently held a course in managing protected areas, and it was highly successful.

Myanmar and Norway entered into a bilateral environmental cooperation this year. The course was the first of several such courses on managing protected areas that will be held in Myanmar during the four-year project.

Key personnel from 20 protected areas participated at the week-long introduction course in Popa Mountain Park. This is a protected area that lies at a relatively high altitude. Accompanied by the sounds of the diverse wildlife, the course participants were equipped with each their own computer, GPS, binoculars, and field manual. In addition to being instructed in how to use this equipment, presentations were made on managing protected areas in both Myanmar and Norway.

Very useful for nine in ten

"The point of the course was partly to find out more about the level of knowledge," explains the Norwegian Environment Agency's Vibeke Husby, who played a key role in setting up the event. "And the feedback we received from the evaluation suggests that the participants benefitted greatly from the course. On average, more than nine in ten replied that they found the training in how to use the computer, GPS, and the methods to be 'very useful'."

Myanmar contains vast natural resources, for example in the form of minerals and oil, and a corresponding biodiversity. The highly diverse ecosystems span from coral reefs, via large river systems and various types of forests, to nearly 6000-metre-high massifs. Around 14,500 species that have so far been registered live in these areas.

The last unspoilt nature

Several of the areas represent the last of their type when it comes to unspoilt nature, because the surrounding land has been used for various purposes. On the basis of how it manages its protected areas, Myanmar wishes to strengthen its natural resource management in order to develop a sustainable use of both biodiversity and natural resources in general. This is where the Norwegian know-how comes in.

"We want to help improve Myanmar's system for natural resource management," says the Norwegian Environment Agency's Jan-Petter Huberth Hansen, who heads the cooperation with Myanmar on biodiversity and natural resource management. "This applies in particular to wetlands and protected areas, so that irreplaceable natural resources are not lost forever."

Facts about Myanmar

Myanmar is twice the size of Norway and has a population of around 60 million people.

The country stretches from coral reefs and mangrove forests to the enormous massifs in Eastern Himalaya that rise almost 6,000 metres above sea level.

Large woodlands still cover around half of the country and feature a vast biodiversity. Around 12,000 plant, 1,000 bird, 800 fish, 370 reptile, and 260 mammal species have so far been registered.

Only around 6 per cent of the land area is protected (in Norway the figure is roughly 17 per cent).

The parties had previously convened in both Norway and Myanmar, but this was the first gathering to include so many key personnel from Myanmar’s protected areas. They will take their new competence to their respective protected areas and disseminate this knowledge to the other staff members.

Important for MOECAF

The course was co-organized by the Norwegian Environment Agency and MOECAF, Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. MOECAF considered the course to be so important that they made it a priority to be represented during the entire event.

“The work will now continue to plan new courses in Myanmar on the basis of what the participants say they need to manage the protected areas well. This will take place in close collaboration with MOECAF,” says Vibeke Husby.