YK Poudel

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) has announced plans to extend chain-link fencing to all 205 gewogs in the next phase of their initiatives to address the issues of human-wildlife conflict, farm mechanisation, and post-harvest loss, the pressing challenges confronting farmers in Bhutan today.

This announcement came during a Question-and-Answer session on October 9.

Member of Parliament (MP), Gyambo Tshering from Bardo-Trong, said that the government has committed to allocate Ngultrum 500 million for the year 2022-2023 and Ngultrum 1 billion for 2023-2024 to support the chain-linked fencing project.

He inquired about the progress and the benefits of this project for farmers nationwide.

In response, Agriculture and Livestock Minister, Yeshey Penjor, provided an update, revealing that out of the 20 dzongkhags, 16 have already been covered by the chain-link fencing initiative.

Three more dzongkhags are nearing completion, he said, and the remaining dzongkhag, Haa, will proceed once site details are submitted.

The funding for this project primarily goes through the local government, for an estimated additional budget of ngultrum 600 million.

The ministry is in the process of adjusting the required budget to align with the new cost estimate of Ngultrum 1.6 billion.

A total coverage of 800 Kilometers will be met once all 19 dzongkhags are covered. “Reports show that 30 percent of the crop is lost during post -harvest management – this will help in post-harvest loss management up to 3 percent and up to 20 percent when all 205 gewogs are covered,” Lyonpo said.

Ugyen Dorji, MP from Dewathang- Gomdar, expressed concern about the rising rental costs of power tillers, which have resulted in fallow lands as farmers struggle to afford this expense.

He said that the country has only 2.9 percent of its arable land usable out of the total 7.8 percent, and the government has made commitments to ensure food security. The increasing costs of machinery, he said, has deterred farmers from engaging in agriculture.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor acknowledged the importance of supporting farmers with machinery and said that between 2019 and 2022, approximately Ngultrum 28 million was provided as support.

For the financial year 2023 and 2024, the finance ministry has approved a budget of ngultrum 250 million. This allocation will be used for power tiller hiring, mini tiller and the hiring of combined harvester machines.

According to data from the ministry, the country currently possesses 2,305 power tillers, 306 mini tillers, 197 tractors, and 19 combine harvesters, which are distributed between the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and certain gewogs.