YK Poudel

Bhutan along with 14 countries in the Asia and the Pacific region received the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Food Systems Integrated Program (FSIP) approved by the GEF Council earlier this month.

The two GEF projects worth USD 10.6 million will be facilitated and implemented by Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) Bhutan office in collaboration with the government.

Titled, “Productive and sustainable food systems in Bhutan for environmental benefits and Gross National Happiness”, the five-year project that ends in 2028 targets 35,000ha of agricultural land (22,616 ha is actively used) in the six eastern dzongkhags identified by the government.

The USD 9.3 million project also aims to help farmers and small-and-medium enterprises mainstream sustainability through nature-based solutions that promote inclusivity, gender-sensitive and climate-smart food production.

Bhutan is among the 22 countries where FAO is leading 48 projects worth USD 2.9 billion to support National Food Systems Transformation Pathways or other government-led frameworks and meet environmental commitments, such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Paris Agreement.

Bhutan’s agriculture sector is challenged by demographic changes causing rural outmigration, agricultural production constraints such as human-wildlife conflict and lack of viable markets, small and fragmented landholdings, and a high dependence on natural resources for livelihoods, among others.

The second project worth USD 1.2 million project, “Enabling the Kingdom of Bhutan to prepare 4th National Communication and 1st and 2nd BTR,” is expected to foster enabling conditions for mainstreaming mitigation concerns into sustainable development strategies through the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency. 

The project will enhance Bhutan’s capacity in quality assurance or control mechanisms in the preparation and reporting of emissions inventories and evaluate and report on adaptation actions in the agriculture sector.

FAO Representative for Bhutan and Nepal, Ken Shimizu said that the project will strengthen the environmental sustainability of agri-food systems and the delivery of global environmental benefits (GEBs) through support for implementation of Bhutan’s national food system pathways.

The project, he said, is expected to contribute to the transformation of food systems at farm, landscape and value chain levels, support enabling conditions for sustainable and healthy food systems, provide agrifood system actors with access to knowledge and technical expertise and promote evidence-and results-based adaptive management. 

“We very much look forward to supporting and closely collaborating with the Royal Government of Bhutan to ensure the successful implementation of this project, which contributes to the global Food Systems Integrated Program (FSIP),” he added.

Globally, a total of 46 countries partnered with FAO to access finance from the GEF in this work programme.