For the farmers the good news is that the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) has revised the guideline for roads which now allows construction of temporary sheds within three metres of the road to sell farm produce.
Agriculture in Bhutan has been facing many problems, born mostly from short-sighted policies. That’s why, even as food import figures continue to rise, we are still talking about the nation’s dream to achieve food self-sufficiency.
Thus, any positive development in the sector, however small, deserves larger and a more focused discussion. Also support. What must borne in mind is that our farming population has been decreasing at an alarming rate, triggered by rising issues of rural to urban migration, human-wildlife conflict and increasing cost of production.
At a time when the country is grappling with the issue of rising unemployment, not least among the younger population group, debates in the gewog tshogdus to reclaim fallow land is encouraging.
Goongtong is an issue that we are grappling with today, which will only grow in the future. In a country that placed achievement of self-sufficiency at the centre of development plans, it is to be wondered how we have left around 66,120.34 acres fallow.
Sections 130 and 131 of the Land Act give the local authority power and responsibility to monitor and enforce the provision on underutilisation and underdevelopment of registered land. Invoking these sections is easy—we just have to do it. Sections 215, 216, 217, 218 of the Act also give the local authority to issue a written notice to occupy the unused land.
Agricultural practices have undergone a huge change over the years. Until a decade ago, for example, agriculture was practiced on a subsistence basis. With improved network of road accessibility and transportation in the country, an increasing number of farms are shifting from subsistence-based farming to commercial agriculture.
Given the right conditions, agriculture development can be easy. We no longer have to worry about the shortage of water. More investments must come to attract young people to take up agriculture.
Agriculture must be seen as a huge business opportunity because the demand for organic and high-end products will only increase.
Our farmers do not have enough land for large-scale production. The bigger problem is that their landholding is decreasing by the year. The government can come in to solve this issue by leasing the unused farmlands in the country.
But, perhaps more important, is to connect our farmers to the market. There is, here, a lot more we can and must do. Good riddance to restrictive guidelines and policies!