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Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of roughly 54 million and 135 ethnic groups, according to official classification.

Natural resources play a key role in Myanmar’s development, with forests covering an estimated 45 % of the land area. However, Myanmar has one of the poorest records globally in environmental management, and in recent decades, environmental degradation has emerged as a critical issue. This is demonstrated by Myanmar’s rate of deforestation, which is among the highest in the Mekong sub-region and estimated as the third highest globally.

Many of the most extensive old growth forests and biodiversity hotspots in all of mainland Southeast Asia are located in Myanmar’s ethnic states and border areas. Myanmar’s indigenous peoples offer important lessons for the world, and highlight the key roles that indigenous communities have to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change — not just in Myanmar, but globally — and should be incorporated as a keystone in conservation efforts.

On energy issues, Myanmar has been in a watershed situation. Continued strong economic growth, rapidly increasing private sector energy consumption and an increasingly urbanised population all suggest that electricity demand is set to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Given the abundance of renewable energy sources, such as sun, wind and geothermal, Myanmar has an opportunity to leapfrog and develop a renewable energy sector that ensures more rapid access to electricity with less pollution.

Siemenpuu’s role in Myanmar

Siemenpuu is supporting projects by local CSOs in two funding themes: Biocultural rights and Energy justice. Operating conditions are challenging, but Siemenpuu’s role in supporting civil society is even more important than earlier.

In the bioculture theme, the focus will be on strengthening biocultural rights, identity, capacity and resilience of communities, as well as indigenous-led approach in conservation and sustainable management of forests and natural resources.

The energy justice theme is further divided into support to energy advocacy work, and support to community-based renewable energy installations. After the 2021 military coup, it is wise to focus energy advocacy towards consumers and communities in order to increase their active participation in producing community energy. Community-based energy plays important part in people’s resilience to political, economic and environmental shocks.