As I lie on the roof of a small boat puttering down the Ywe River, drifting past lush vegetation punctuated by the occasional flash of bright gold from the stupa of a Buddhist shrine, my mind turns over a jumble of insights from an eye‐opening day. I had arrived in the Irrawaddy Delta region of Myanmar the night before, after flying halfway around the world and bumping along for eight hours on largely unpaved roads. Following a restless night in the best local guesthouse listening to my neighbor’s hacking cough through thin walls that rose a foot short of the ceiling, I had eagerly embarked on one of my first field visits to witness the noble work being done to fight global poverty.

Myanmar was at a critical juncture. Life was gradually returning to normal after the 2008 devastation of Cyclone Nargis, which had killed almost 100,000 people. Hope for a brighter future was swelling, following the release of pro‐democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and the first open parliamentary elections in decades. Yet, many people remained desperately poor, toiled on small family farms, and eked out an average income of less than two dollars a day. The program I was here to visit worked with some of these smallholder farmers in the delta region to improve their agricultural yields, and thereby their incomes.

My day started with an early three‐hour boat ride to one of these villages. As I walked among the thatched huts and surrounding fields, the women and men proudly ...

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