KP Sharma

Despite agriculture sector employing nearly half of Bhutan’s population, it remains dominated by traditional methods, hindering productivity and struggling to feed a growing nation.

To address this issue, the Bhutan Agri-Trade and Investment Forum, held recently in Thimphu, stressed the need to leverage technology for a complete agriculture haul.

The secretary of the GovTech Agency, Jigme Tenzing, acknowledged the global challenge of increasing food production to meet population demands.

In Bhutan’s case, the situation is complicated by its mountainous terrain, with only 2.7 percent of land suitable for cultivation.

Despite these limitations, agriculture contributes 14 percent to Bhutan’s GDP, highlighting its potential for growth in future.

“We have about 65,000 acres of fallow land and to cultivate them, we need to adapt to the usage of technology,” Jigme Tenzing said.

With food self-sufficiency being a long-term vision for Bhutan, forum participants highlighted the untapped potential of this land and the importance of supporting farmers by leveraging technology to commercialise their production.

The founder of Guu.AI, Ngawang Gyeltshen, stated that smallholding farms are playing a pivotal role in Bhutan’s agriculture system.

However, he cautioned that while technology can enhance large commercial farms’ production, it might negatively impact small farms by driving them out of the market due to a lack of economic incentives.

“We must assess how ready our private sector and other firms are in leveraging technology in agriculture,” he added. 

He also warned that while the government aims to produce high-nutrition and high-value crops for export using technological solutions, there could be potential compromises in quality.

Meanwhile, Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) and international partners have been supporting farmers in adopting technology through various projects.

Senior program manager at the Delegation of the EU to India and Bhutan, Dinakar Radhakrishnan, mentioned ongoing projects that use earth observation technology, such as drones and satellites, to improve agricultural products.

He added that given Bhutan’s terrain, technology is both possible and relevant.

“Skills and infrastructure are crucial, and we are working to identify Bhutan’s needs in collaboration with various agencies,” Radhakrishnan said, adding that technology assists farmers in exploring the best markets for their products.

Government officials at the discussion said that the launch of the National Digital Identity (NDI) and the expansion of high-speed fiber connectivity could be leveraged to modernise agriculture, aligning with the government’s initiatives to integrate technology into the sector.