Lhakpa Quendren

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched a project to build resilient commercial smallholder agriculture (BRECSA) on August 28 in Gelephu, Sarpang.

The project which supports smallholder agriculture value chains aims to transform smallholder agriculture into inclusive and resilient agri-food systems that are increasingly profitable, and food and nutrition secure.

BRECSA is expected to benefit 12,074 farmer households in 539 villages in Sarpang, Tsirang, Zhemgang, and Trongsa, the dzongkhags with strong potential for commercial farming.

Roshan Cooke, IFAD country director, said that the project would not only benefit women and youth, but also about 600 differently-abled people. “This is quite a large area that we are covering under this project.”

He said that the project has a longer timeline, which usually takes four to five years to complete. “All the implementers understand the purpose and scope of the project.”

The project will focus on both the livelihood enhancement and commercialisation of resilient agriculture production through value chain co-ordination market engagement and enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector in the four target dzongkhags.

Shama Maqbool, WFP representative, said that the BRECSA project will help build linkages between climate-responsive value chain development and market-oriented food production, supporting Bhutan’s transition to a middle-income country.

“The project also aims to boost equitable employment and income-generating opportunities for smallholding farmers, especially women and youth through capacity-building and investment support,” she said.

BRECSA will target subsistence, semi-commercial and commercial farmers with the aim to generate a 30 percent increase in agricultural production in the target districts by 2030.

Agriculture Secretary Thinley Namgyel said that this project would support the government’s long-term plan to address gaps. He said the 10-year plan, which will start from next year, is very ambitious and necessary.

One of the important aims, he said, is to generate full employment with quality jobs, where the unemployment rate is expected to drop below 2.5 percent.

He said that the long-term plan is to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) by almost five times, hitting 10 billion by 2034. GDP per capita is expected to rise to US$12,000 by 2034.

The project includes three major components: resilient agriculture production; strengthened value chain and market linkages; and innovative and competitive agri-food system.

The MoAL in partnership with various agencies, including civil society organisations and the private sector will implement the project with technical and implementation support from WFP.

As part of the project, over 40 officials from the departments of agriculture marketing and co-operatives, livestock, school education, agriculture, and civil society organisations, state-owned enterprises, and the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry are attending a four-day project launch and start-up workshop in Gelephu.

The USD 30 million seven-year project is funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) including a USD 8.935 million loan from the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD). Of the total, USD 2.6 million has been allocated to WFP for providing Technical Assistance to the project and USD 10.4 million for investments.