Creatively promoting the conservation of biodiversity
Biotrade by definition
The collection, production, transformation, and commercialisation of biodiversity-based goods and services that meet specific sustainability criteria.
Biotrade in context
Biotrade has sustainability – environmentally, socially, and economically – at its core. Biotrade protects forests because many of the plants concerned only thrive in intact ecosystems. It creates jobs because gathering or growing the plants is labor-intensive. Finally because fair prices are an integral part of the concept, it improves earnings across the board, from harvesters and farmers to workers and salaried employees in the processing, distributing, and selling of these natural products.
Conservation use of biodiversity
Sustainable use of biodiversity
Fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity
Socio-economic sustainability (productive, financial and market management)
Compliance with national and international regulations
Respect for the rights of actors involved in BioTrade activities
Clarity about land tenure, use and access to natural resources and knowledge
Regional Biotrade Project
Biotrade Myanmar is embedded in a regional project. This project covers three countries of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world with over 11,000 species of plants.
In Myanmar, ISM is providing technical assistance and capacity building to selected companies and suppliers that are involved in the production and export of natural ingredients such as Shan tea, jujube, tamarind, thanakha and other indigenous plants. ISM is also facilitating linkages between buyers and sellers of Biotrade products, supporting the formation of sector associations that are working with natural ingredients, and advocating for a policy-friendly environment to foster Biotrade and biodiversity.
Salay Shae Saung is a small-medium enterprise that has increased its revenue from $51,200 in 2018 to $625,000 in 2019, and has created safe and secure jobs for 56 staff, 51 of whom are women. This family-ownedbusiness west of the Ayeyarwaddy River in the central dry zone produces jujube syrup, jujube fruit jam and jujube toffee from locally sourced jujube fruits.
ISM is committed to continue supporting Salay Shae Saung and other Biotrade companies in Myanmar to grow their businesses while contributing to biodiversity conservation and social and economic equality.
Photographs taken at the Salae Shae Saung processing factory as well within a 50 km radius, of predominantly women suppliers and collectors.
Hesperethusa crenulata roem
SEAΔ fellowship, an artist trio from Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam took it upon themselves to bring awareness to the Myanmar way of life. Out of a wide range of Biotrade products in Myanmar (such as Shan tea, ginger, spices, jujube), they chose to explore people's personal stories that centre around the use of the biotrade heritage crop that is သနပ်ခါး thanakha.
This biotrade treasure grows in middle-Burma with some of the best of it coming from Yesagyo. Thanakha refers to the tree whose branches are harvested and then used with water on a smooth grinding stone. The paste that is produced is also thanakha. From a cultural point of view, thanakha is quintessentially Myanmar as it is used by all the ethnic groups countrywide. Thanakha is worn not just to restore and improve the facial skin but it is also applied on the arms and neck for protection against the sun, as well as on the entire body of children for a cooling effect after a shower.
A performance artist with a full face of thanakha interacts with a group of ladies from Yesagyo village
Arts & culture ecosystem
It should come as no surprise that the arts are an essential facet of social development – yet, too often they are overlooked. Together with donor support, ISM facilitates the realisation of an institutional plan for our upcoming, local partner Association for Myanmar Contemporary Arts (AMCA). AMCA serves many valuable but underrepresented contributors to Myanmar society: artists.
Painting by cycle 2 grantee, Chit Wai
Facilitating connections & building knowledge
in the arts
Recognised the arts as a valid sub sector of development by conceiving a project that is informed by its artist- community stakeholders
Awarded grants to over 100 practicing artists across Myanmar and then identified a local arts organisation as a partner to envision and implement further, innovative grant-giving schemes
Assembled an alumni group from past grant awardees to encourage friendly, independent, self-organising practice in the arts that goes beyond the ARF project.
An independent, locally led organisation that is implementing the final and most crucial phase of the Artist Fund project.
After administering cycle 3 of grants and overseeing the cycle-end exhibition, AMCA is looking to develop as an organisation and in the processhas provided opportunities to upcoming cultural workers to be mentored and gain exposure to arts organising by creating jobs in the cultural sector. As a result of the success of the partnership, ISM was able to to secure further funding for the Artist Fund which goes towards AMCA's plans to engage more artists in different ways.
Cycle 4 of grants is underway and with it, AMCA as athe implementing organisation focuses to satisfy the the needs of the arts community with nuance and with sustainability in mind.
Artist residencies are one of the pillars of contemporary art practice which many artists consider to be indispensable to their careers. They provide a way for the artist to incubate with their ideas and their reference material, oftentimes with one or several collaborators doing something similar.
In residencyartists accomplish what they planned to, or they find greater inspiration that they let lead the process of exploration and production. The process, for artists, is often more valuable than the result. It is in this gradual state that experimentation takes place, evaluation and re-evaluation enriches it, where lessons are learnt and where the artist’s diligence carries the experience to conclusion.
AMCA is the ARF’s new partner, and it plays a pivotal role as the project implementer. To start, AMCA is artist-run which makes the organisation and its activities particularly well-informed and sensitive to the needs of the stakeholders- artists. These artists are from across the country and from a diversity of disciplines. The third cycle of grants was administered by AMCA in March of this year. There was a clear distinction from when the open call was made between those who would be awarded grants for resilience, and those who needed emergency financial relief.
A third category was conceived by AMCA upon reviewing submissions, that presented a new modality for future grantmaking. Four emerging artists caught ISM’s eye with the undeniably social aspect to their arts proposal. They were then chosen to pilot this interdisciplinary programme,the Local Residency Grant, in Pindaya, Southern Shan state. That's where four grant awardees in groups of two became proximate neighbours over a span of 6 weeks as artists-in-residency. The artists, who are aged 18 to 35, come from varying backgrounds, disciplines and approaches to artmaking but they have at least one thing in common: the desire to involve the community.
A great turnout of local community members enjoy the workshops facilitated by the grantee artists-in-residence
The support and engagement of the community of Pindaya and the participation of local cultural practitioners was an imperative part of the residency. The artist groups facilitated exploration of the neighbourhoods after being provided exclusive access to elements such as spaces, events and the local people who make them unique. Planned activities and outcomes included:
An exchange and collaboration with local artists and the community
Educating children and youngsters using a specially- conceived short curriculum about gender diversity.
An exploration of local issues, geography, and cultural diversity through the lens of public art
The simultaneous promotion of small and local, heritage, bio-business
A total of 100 community members of which half were children, participated in the activities created and implemented by the artists-in-residence. Of those activities, some were multi-day workshops. During these workshops, the participants were guided in the important practice of self-expression as well as how to interpret meaning using symbols, colours and context as cues.
Shan paper in the making by the residents and local paper craftspeople; final artworks made from Shan paper
Art residencies don't usually just finish without some sort of commemoration of the experience. To conclude the time spent intensively learning, exploring and creating, a final product is presented. The Pindaya community was a great collaborator, lending support through its members along with their local skills. The same community was also a welcoming and receptive audience at the end of the residency
The ten Myanmar dynasties on shan paper
Yoe Yar, which translates to tradition or custom, was the name of one of the groups and for their artistic work, they researched traditional paintings from the ten dynasties and reinterpreted them as contemporary art on Shan paper- a local, artisanal paper made from the pulp of the pith of mulberry branches, used across the country as an arts and crafts resource.
The other group, The Dive, used the same Shan paper as material to make lanterns that could be hung and displayed long after the residency was over, as if to bear a burning torch for an asserted identity as unique individuals worthy of respect and acceptance like any other.
Shan paper lanterns made by hand and hung to display