This article by Htet Wai was published on The Irrawaddy, an independent website in Myanmar, and is reproduced on Global Voices as part of an agreement to share content.
Bamboo shoots are a popular dish in Myanmar. The buds appear with the monsoon rains and their season lasts throughout the rainy season, from the beginning of June to the end of September, when rain makes them germinate in abundance. Served with sauce, bamboo shoots are the perfect accompaniment to dinner tables in most homes in Myanmar.
However, the life of a bamboo harvester is difficult. Ko Pho La is a bamboo shoot harvester that lives in the Kyee Bin village in the Irrawaddy region. The village is located west of the Pathein-Monywa road in the Township district, near the Arakan mountains.
Although the majority of villagers work on farms, most of them make a living collecting firewood and harvesting bamboo shoots. Ko Pho La works as a tenant farmer, but in the rainy season, after transplanting rice paddies, he gathers bamboo shoots to make ends meet.
In the early days of the monsoon season, bamboo shoots can be found closer to the village, but when the monsoon is in full swing, Ko Pho La must enter deep into the jungle in the Arakan mountains to collect shoots. Good enough to sell.
When harvesters move between bushes and trees, the hardest thing is not nature but mosquitoes, said Ko Pho La.
As the sun rises in the sky and the army of mosquitoes grows, bamboo shoot collectors must run against time to collect as many shoots as they can in the morning to finish their work in the afternoon. In addition to mosquitoes, snakes with a frequent threat, said Ko Pho La.
Bamboo shoot collectors do not return walking to their village but by water, floating with their bamboo shoots along the Nan Ka Thu stream, which originates in the Arakan mountains, up to the foot of the mountains.
Usually, they collect between 10 and 20 viss (one viss equals almost 1.6 kg) in one day. Ko Pho La says he tries to collect 15 viss on average each time. After arriving home, boil the sprouts to prepare them for sale.
Bamboo shoots are sold along Pathein-Monywa Road for 300 kyats (0.20 US dollars) per viss, but at the market in Kwin Kauk, the closest town to Kyee Bin, they achieve 800 kyats (0.53 US dollars) ) by viss.