YK Poudel

In a bid to strengthen agrifood systems and alleviate poverty in Bhutan, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN Bhutan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL), launched its European Union Technical Assistance for Agrifood Systems (EU-TAAS) project yesterday.

The EU-TAAS project, a joint measure between FAO and MoAL, aims to enhance Bhutan’s technical capacity in promoting sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient food systems. On September 20, 2022, the EU provided Euro 15 million to Bhutan for agricultural development in Bhutan.

With a fund totaling EUR 1.4 million, the initiative in the long run will support the diversification of Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) sectors, paving the way for green economic opportunities and ensuring food and nutritional security while promoting the sustainable management of natural resources. 

The project’s inception workshop served as a platform to establish a shared understanding of its theory of change, objectives, and anticipated outcomes among agencies. Key deliberations included the endorsement of the project’s Monitoring and Evaluation framework and activity tracking plans. 

Additionally, the workshop shed light on the EU’s budget support aspect, highlighting ongoing initiatives and future directions for the current fiscal year. 

The hybrid event, attended by FAO Representative for Bhutan and Nepal, Ken Shimizu, and MoAL Secretary, Thinley Namgyel, saw participation from government agencies, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and the Delegation of the European Union to India and Bhutan.

Secretary Thinley Namgyel said that the workshop was timely, emphasising the ministry’s readiness to implement the 13th Five Year Plan with a focus on food and nutrition security. “To achieve food and nutrition security, the ministry is focused on two areas; high value export-oriented products and ensuring level of self-sufficiency of some products within the country during emergencies,” he said.

Ken Shimizu expressed gratitude to the government and the European Union for selecting FAO as a partner in the transformation of Bhutan’s agrifood systems, reaffirming FAO’s commitment to ensuring the project’s successful implementation.

Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation for Bhutan and India, Franck Viault, said that the technical assistance will help agriculture ministry’s efforts in enhancing the coordination among the agencies, CSOs and private sector in transforming agri-food system in Bhutan.

Implemented by FAO, the project aims to foster diversification in the RNR sector, promote sustainable resource management, and enhance food and nutrition security in Bhutan. 

The 46-months project, is a part of the EU and the government’s collaborative efforts under the ‘Promoting Inclusive, Sustainable, and Resilient Agri-Food Systems in Bhutan’ financing agreement.

The EU’s support for Bhutan’s RNR sector dates back to 1984, evolving from water supply projects to the current budget support programme, marking a longstanding partnership in the nation’s agricultural development.