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Bhutan’s agriculture sector could suffer severely from climate change if adaptation practices are not taken up urgently, according to a World Bank report released on November 14.

According to the report, Bhutan Climate-Smart Agriculture (BCSA) Profile, there is evidence of the country experiencing global warming.

“There has been a shift in vegetation and phenology due to increased heat stress. For example, cardamom and citrus are increasingly grown in warm temperate zones, which were unsuitable 10 years ago.

“Crop varieties and animal breeds will shift towards more favourable zones,” the report states.

The shift is also noticed in the geographical location of insects. “Leeches that were previously predominant in warmer areas are now found in cooler regions; potato tuber moths, a common pest for the lower subtropical region, are increasingly found in higher elevations; and the caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is disappearing at elevations below 3,000m,” according to the report.

One of the two World Bank consultants who compiled the report, Abimbola Adubi said these changes would affect agriculture adversely.

“There is a lack of national capacity in terms of institutional, infrastructure, human, and technical across the board in dealing with climate change and its effects on agriculture and biological diversity, food security and water resources,” the study by World Bank experts in consultation with Bhutanese stakeholders stated.

It stated that there is limited understanding and awareness on impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security, water resources, forests and biodiversity at all levels.

“The specific areas of capacity that need to be addressed include research and assessment, monitoring, extension and training, and policy development,” Abimbola Adubi said.

He said that despite agriculture being the primary occupation of the rural population and the agriculture ministry’s goal of food security and self-sufficiency, the country is experiencing decreasing trends in agriculture production, especially cereals.

“This is not only caused by climate change-related difficulties, but also because of the shortage of farm manpower, among others,” he said.

The report recommended that along with the implementers of agriculture programmes, farmers’ awareness of CSA and its practices is limited.

Efforts must be made to educate people on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security, water resources, and forests and biodiversity, the report stated.

“This will help support Bhutan’s preparedness in reducing vulnerability against the impacts of climate change through improved awareness and strengthened capacities of all stakeholders,” it stated.

Practices are considered CSA if they enhance food security as well as fulfilling at least one of the other objectives of CSA such as adaptation and or mitigation.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said that the launch of the BCSA profile is a step forward in concretising the recommendations in the profile.

“These findings strengthen what is known and call for focus in implementing the recommendations,” he said. “The ministry has identified climate-smart agriculture as one of the key strategies for adaptation to climate change in the 11th Plan,” he said.

To help reduce future impacts of climate change, Bhutan is formulating a climate change policy under the National Environment Commission, the minister said.

The minister said that CSA would be continued in the next plan as one of the main strategies. In the past three months, the ministry has launched a World Bank’s project on food security worth USD 9 million, another project with Euro 21.5 million funding for the European Union, and the Bhutan for Life project, which also has to address climate change as the main component.

Tshering Palden

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