Women Day Labour in Dawei
Dawei is located in Tanintharyi region southern Myanmar and the main economic sectors are fishery and agriculture which are rubber, durian, cashew nuts, betel nuts. Dawei has a rainy monsoon season during May and September and large tree plantations are common in Dawei. The groundwork of men is fishery and women work either in the tree plantations as day labourers or in the many factories in Dawei. Women especially work in Cashew nuts factories, pottery productions, broom factories, sausage factories and making cheroots. Women earn 5,000 MMK (approximately 3 USD) to 10,000 MMK (approximately 6 USD) per day which can vary depending on the working processes and how much they can produce in a day.
Cashew Nuts of Dawei
Cashew nuts are seasonal fruit factories and it is one of the main exports of Dawei. Cashew nut is not a seed and it grows on top of the fruit. Though in local language Cashew nuts are known as thiho seeds (Burmese name) and Shitkalit seeds (Dawei Dialect). Local people of Dawei eat Cashew fruit in the form of a dish and jam, Cashew leaf as Tohsayar (boiled or fresh vegetables) together with Ngapi and Cashew nuts as a sweet and ingredient in some desserts. Cashew plants are grown along the coastline and near the beaches in Dawei, especially in Yaybyu township and Launglon township. Many farmers plant small cashews beside their houses, when the plant has grown enough they are transplanted to cultivated farms.
Most of the farmers plant cashew trees organically and some farmers use fertilisers and pesticide for fast growth. Organic cashews are smaller than economic cashews but the taste is really sweet. MMT cashew nuts in Dawei are popular cashews as organics. They harvest cashew fruits at the end of winter and sell them to the trader women. From the traders, cashew nuts are sent to the many factories in Dawei and kept in a store for many years. If the factories do not have enough cashew, at that time, workers take odd jobs at the market. Almost all factory workers are women.
The steps of processing Cashew Nuts in Dawei
Women play an important role in the cashew nuts factories. They work five Steps to make the cashew nut ready to eat and they also separate five Qualities in a process. In one factory, about fifty women work processing cashew nuts. The income of the women is based on kilograms of cashews, how much they can produce in a day and different stages will vary their earnings. Most women finish about 10 Kg per day. Women who have had years of experience can finish about 20 Kg per day.
For the first stage, women dry several green cashews under the sun. It takes 2 to 3 days for the cashew nuts to dry enough. Drying reduces the moisture of the Cashew nuts. The best amount of moisture in cashews is only 5%. The women take the dried cashew nuts to the next stage.
After drying the Cashew nuts still have shells and the dried cashews are boiled with pure water in large pans. The shell will change to a black colour in a process that takes 45 minutes to 1 hour of boiling. Next the women put the boiled cashew nuts with the black shells into bamboo baskets to cool down.
The next step is cracking the cashew nuts. Women must wear gloves or plastic packs on their hands in this process. Because the sap of cashew nuts is bad for your skin. To remove the black shells, skilled workers use machines with foot pedals that bring a hammer down that cracks the nut open after which the women get out the kernel with a small knife from the shells, they have to use both their hands and feet at the same time. They finish cracking the cashew nut and they obtain the white kernel.
After cracking the cashew nuts, another group of women or men heat the kernels in the ovens. It takes about 2 days for roasting. The heating oven has many layers with the fire below. Roasted Cashews are easy to peel, which is the next step.
Peeling and Packaging
This process is more labor intensive than other steps. Cashews only remain are thin shells and women remove the shells from the rest of the nuts with hands or knives. While they remove the shells from cashew nuts, they also separate the cashews by their quality. The peeling process can work from home by taking roasted cashews from factories.
Now, women are ready for packing and they pack the kernels according to their qualities. Broken cashew nuts are cheaper and the whole good kernels are more expensive. Then, the owner sends packed Cashews to Yangon (the main economic city) from where they are transferred to neighbouring countries like Thailand, China and India.
Can you visit Cashew nuts factories in Dawei?
If you want to see the daily life of locals in Dawei, you can join Dawei Panorama Tours, Hello Dawei Travel and Tour and Sam The Man Tour guide. Who normally also visit the Cashew nut factories. Because of the Covid 19 pandemic, you cannot visit cashew nuts factories in Dawei currently. In Dawei, most cashew nuts factories have no signboards, so many travellers don't know about them. The best factory to visit is located in Khone Win Dat Quarter and it operates with about fifty women. In the factories, you can watch the women working but cannot participate (hand on experience) because you can lose your hand due to being non-skilled with these processes.
Once all covid 19 restrictions are lifted, you can visit cashew nut factories in Dawei and don't forget to buy fresh and delicious cashew nuts. The price of cashew nuts for One Kilogram is between 10,000 MMK (approximately 6 USD) to 20,000 MMK (approximately 11 USD) depending on the size and quality of kernels.
Dawei is full of natural scenery and many agricultural products are produced here. Agricultural products of Cashew nuts give Vitamins, minerals and protein to humans. The benefits of eating cashew nut can help for pregnancy which are steady blood pressure, low cholesterol, reducing headaches and decreasing hemorrhagic diseases that can have an effect on the newborn. All the processing of cashew nuts is operated by mostly women in Dawei. So, you can appreciate the hard work of women and support our local product of cashew nuts while visiting southern Myanmar.