Transforming of Production Palm Sugar in Myanmar (ToPPS)


The Transforming of Production Palm Sugar (ToPPS) project aims improve incomes of palm sugar farmers in Myanmar

The Transforming of Production Palm Sugar (ToPPS) project aims improve incomes of palm sugar farmers by reducing expenses on cookstove fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissons. The project is funded by TRANSFORM, a partnership between DFID and Unilever and implemented by a consortium of Zawgyi, Unilever and SNV.

In Myanmar, palm sugar is produced by reducing palm sugar syrup on a wood burning stove in large pans. Palm sugar producers often have low expendable incomes (below the poverty line of 3 USD/person/day) and there is high risk for climbers and burning body parts while cooking. Recently, the palm sugar industry faces a strong decline in demand due to (amongst others) competition of sugar cane.

Funded as part of its Responsible Sourcing Policy, Unilever Indonesia assigned SNV to assess the feasibility and impact of introducing fuel reducing cook stoves to strengthen resilience of the farming communities in its supply chain of palm sugar in Myanmar and Indonesia.The SNV assessment study revealed that through incremental improvements in stove designs and proper training in operation and maintenance, a minimum of 20% of biomass can be saved per household annually with direct livelihood improvements from combined increased net wage and timesaving. Other benefits include subsequent reduction of GHG emissions; reduced health risks to smoke extraction; and up to one hour in cooking time per day saved to the benefit of women operating the stoves. Moreover, better stoves have the potential to improve the quality of the sugar due by superior heat regulation and temperature control.

The ToPPS project seeks to translate the conclusions of the study into tangible benefits for the farmers of Unilever’s palm sugar supply chain in Nyaung-Oo: by refining the design of the cook stoves, training farmers in operation and maintenance, testing the models under field conditions and marketing the most appropriate model at trial end. SNV partners with Zawgyi Premier Ltd, who sources the palm sugar for Unilever and is committed to engage farmer communities in developing a transparent supply chain for palm sugar.

The first phase of ToPPS focuses on R&D and aims to optimise the design of the stoves and achieve an affordable model that meets fuel reduction targets. Pilot kitchens will be established to serve as an artisan, end-user and M&E training center. SNV will link its technical expertise to the skills of local masons and the practical knowledge of farmer end-users. After the selection of the final cook stove design, promotion activities will be undertaken to build the demand that can be served by trained local artisans. Performance of the stoves will be monitored over at least the high stress period (high production, rainy season) to ensure they meet the requirements in all seasons. This phase will give evidence on impact, adoption and functionality at household level. The second phase will then expand the outreach, train additional artisans, start large scale marketing, facilitate access to finance for interested farmer households while quality control will be continued, providing watertight proof of capacity for upscaling both regionally and nationally.

The project targets are:

  • 4 Project sites

  • 8 Independent artisans

  • Sustainable Revolving Fund microfinance mechanism

  • 300 improved cook stoves

  • 300 farmer households positively impacted

  • ≥1,800 tons of wood fuel reduced, equivalent to 3,240 tCO2e mitigated

  • Fuel cost savings equivalent to US$200-300  per year per farmer household (1-2 months net household income)

  • Health and safety improvement for cook stove users and their families

  • Improved sugar quality due to better control of stove temperature and training


The TRANSFORM donor partnership pilots and tests innovative business models that meet low income household needs. By attracting climate finance, impact investment and grants, the consortium of Zawgyi, Unilever and SNV aspires to replicate and scale up the market to all smallholders supplying to Zawgyi and beyond. The potential is significant, with a significant number of palm sugar producers in Myanmar and even more in Indonesia. This initiative provides a unique opportunity to improve the livelihoods of many smallholders whilst significantly reducing the pressure on the environment.

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