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Agriculture:

Tshering Palden

Going by the extent of damages, it seems that wild boars remained as busy as the farmers if not more in the year of the Hog.

The hog menace was so widespread and hurting that communities asked their Member of Parliament to propose in the National Assembly measures control them. They hinted at culling.

In the southern parts of the country, the pachyderm problem and the monkeys damaged so much crop loss in the eastern parts of the country. All in all, wild animal predation of crops remained one of the main challenges for farmers.

To prevent farmers from suffering crop losses, human-wildlife conflict committees also known as gewog environment conservation committees were formed with initial seed money of Nu 0.5 million from the government to compensate in some form the loss of livestock or crops to wild animals. But it had teething problems in implementation.

Since its inception in 2010, 46 such committees were formed in 15 dzongkhags across the country by 2017. The forestry department had a target of establishing 126 such committees by the end of the 11th Plan from 11 in 2012. Given the problems, there was no budget allocation in the 2016-17 financial year despite the ministry having targeted to establish 36 more committees. The system became defunct.

The government came up with an endowment fund for crop loss in 2019. The finance ministry approved opening a current deposit account for an endowment fund with an allocation of Nu 20M in the financial year 2018-19 and the final target is USD 35 million. 

With the cardamom export dwindling each year, the agriculture launched its buyback scheme with cardamom and other crops. The government supported the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) to purchase 50.2 metric tonnes of cardamom worth Nu 20.75 million (M) using the Nu 50M Over-Draft Facility last year.

This scheme benefitted some 549 farmers from eight cardamom-growing districts.

If production was dismal, mainly hampered by the wild animals and shortage of irrigation, then many farmers were constrained by the lack of market to sell the little surplus they have.

The ministry began forging farmers’ groups with schools to provide them with a reliable market and the schools a nutritious and fresh food supply.

The food self-sufficiency target is greatly challenged by the lack of irrigation, mechanisation and labour shortage on the farms. Religious sentiments impede efforts to commercialise livestock production.

Despite more than half the population engaging in agriculture the sector still cannot produce half the food requirements of the country. This puts a huge burden on the economy as most of the items have to be imported.

The sector is yearning for more investment in agricultural research to guide both policymaking and implementation. Besides meeting this objective, the launch of the Nu 1 billion organic flagship programme by 2035 which is also expected to help farmers mitigate impacts of climate change.

The ultimate goal of Bhutan’s development efforts is Gross National Happiness, but to be happy, having enough to eat is critical. To fulfil that vision, the country needs to produce sufficient food.

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