With the European Union’s 15 (EU) million EUR assistance, Bhutan’s agricultural development has received a major boost.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering and the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bhutan and India, Ugo Astuto launched the programme to promote an inclusive, sustainable and resilient agricultural food system on September 20.

This programme is expected to help Bhutan diversify the Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) sector through green economic opportunities, ensure food and nutritional security and help manage natural resources sustainably.

In the face of climate-induced changes affecting the agriculture sector, the programme could enable the Bhutanese agriculture system to become more resilient to calamities and help the youths and help the post-Covid-19 economy. It is in this light that we must be impelled to examine the sector, current state and opportunities.

EU’s ambassador to India and Bhutan, Ugo Astuto, said: “I’m pleased to launch this new budget support program for Bhutan. The pandemic has shown us the urgency to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems which are resilient to climate change.” The program, he said would prepare Bhutan for future emerging issues.

The ministry, Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, would prioritise the quality production processes and improve the quality of food resources and market facilities.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests’ efforts to strengthen the country’s food security is a development that deserves our praise. The time has come for Bhutan to revolutionise the foundations of the agriculture sector such as developing comprehensive plans for soil fertility, land use, and land lease, secure investments and technology to stem wildlife conflict, and secure inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and machinery, among others.

 Agriculture officials say that a major transformation in the sector will need all manner of support that the Initiative can lend, and knowledge and technical guidance. That’s why the EU’s support is a significant development.

In the face of increasing population and import figures, not forgetting the inherent challenges such as emptying rural households and rising unemployment among the country’s young people, the time has come for agriculture development must take a new turn.

As an agrarian country with a large percentage of the population in the sector, it is important that we really gave a leg up to the sector.

 For example, of the total arable land in the country of just 7 percent—664,000 acres—only 2.93 percent is under cultivation. On the other hand, the fallowing of land is increasing. On the last count, in 2019, total fallow land constituted 66,120.32 acres.

These are the issues that we must address when talking about building sustainable and resilient agricultural food systems.