Her advice is in demand, as rubber production is a promising new livelihood opportunity in southern Myanmar.
With that context, it is clear that Hey Mer is a prominent leader in her village. She sheepishly tells me that she knows it. And that she knows that, for a woman to be perceived as the leader there, is a bit unique.
Hey Mer is not just producing good quality rubber, she is doing so in accordance with farming practices that don’t degrade the forests or mistreat workers. Such steps are necessary to protect the environment and human rights, but also to ensure good rubber prices for farmers and a long-lasting rubber industry.
Fortunately, the number of people like Hey Mer is on the rise. The Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture—along with WWF, the Karen National Union and the Myanmar Rubber Planters and Producers Association—is going from village to village to educate people about why, if they want to produce rubber, they should do so in accordance with sustainable farming practices.
This is particularly important in Hey Mer’s village, as it is within the Dawna Tenasserim Landscape, a vast mountainous region that is one of the best remaining habitats in the world for tigers and Asian elephants.