Choki Wangmo

The agriculture ministry on April 9 issued a notification stating that it would not lease government land for commercial farming activities unless approved by the National Land Commission for specific options.

In the wake of Covid-19, the ministry has received numerous proposals to lease government land for commercial activities in the agriculture sector.

The decision applies to land procurement activities related to the urban agriculture initiative announced by the agriculture department earlier this month.

Director of the agriculture department, Kinlay Tshering, said that the notification encourages the cultivation of private fallow land across the nation, recorded at 63,771 acres.

The ministry has asked proponents for land first to identify fallow land and then negotiate with private landowners before approaching the ministry for land development, input support, and loan services from the financial institutions.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the potential land would be identified and negotiated by the gewog administration, dzongkhag agriculture and livestock officers who would then inform the individuals and groups applying for agricultural farming and entrepreneurship of these details.

“When there are huge acreages of under-cultivated land in different parts of the country, it is not constitutional to encroach and use government land,” Lyonpo said, adding that the non-cooperation from private landowners might impede the success of the programme.

However, the government would intervene and negotiate if the situation requires, he said.

Meanwhile, the department is in the process of developing land for cultivation in Kawang and Mewang gewogs in Thimphu.

Kinlay Tshering said that the few pockets within the core town area is also being explored for urban agriculture and will roll out soon. The initiative would employ laid-off workers.

Last month, the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, on his Facebook requested the farmers to increase farm products with a buyback guarantee from the government and urban dwellers to make kitchen garden in the wake of a global pandemic.

The ministry informed that while the ban on meat import continues, there is no import ban on fruits and vegetables, the import would be subject to the virus containment protocols in place at the border entry points.