KP Sharma

A two-day experience-sharing workshop for Community Resource Persons (CRPs) from five dzongkhags is currently underway in Paro, starting yesterday.

The workshop is aimed at understanding the roles and responsibilities of CRPs as volunteers in the agricultural sector within the Nutrition Behavior Change Communication (BCC) model beyond the project’s duration.

The BCC strategy was developed in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of Bhutan under the Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project (FSAPP).

CRPs are volunteers responsible for advocating the community members on various aspects, including nutrition gardens, dietary habits, cleanliness, food safety, post-harvest operations and agricultural marketing.

The workshop also seeks to advocate for support from the Department of Agriculture to ensure the continuity of the CRP system. This is essential for sustaining community support in behaviour change towards food and nutrition security, aligning with Bhutan’s Food and Nutrition Security Policy of 2023.

Starting in December 2022, the project focused on improving dietary diversity and nutrition among beneficiaries. Nutrition BCC initiatives were carried out using a training-of-trainers (ToT) approach, according to the project coordinators.

As per the project co-ordinators, by October 2023, the project had effectively involved 160 CRPs, with 39 percent being female. These CRPs reached out to 4,550 beneficiaries, with 55 percent being female.

The outreach programme has four main themes such as setting up nutrition gardens, promoting dietary diversity, ensuring food safety and enhancing dietary intake at both household and community levels.

The director of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Yonten Gyamtsho, commended the project for successfully implementing the nutrition BCC initiatives at the grassroots level.

He expressed gratitude towards FAO for their support in developing the BCC Strategy and capacity building of project implementers and CRPs.

The project, which started seven years ago and spans five dzongkhags of Chukha, Dagana, Haa, Samtse, and Sarpang is scheduled to conclude in December 2024.

The Nutrition and Education co-ordinator of FAO, Sangay Wangdi, said that the organisation has invested extensive time and resources in the project.

He stressed the importance of its continuation with government support after FAO hands it over within the next few months.

He also highlighted the project’s various benefits to the community, including the establishment of household vegetable gardens, implementation of marketing strategies and enhancements in health and sanitation hygiene practices.

He said that not all gewogs within these dzongkhags were included. Factors such as poverty levels and market accessibility were considered in selecting the gewogs.

A CRP member, Karma Tamang from Sampheling in Chukha, mentioned that the group conducts village visits to raise awareness about the advantages of consuming nutritious vegetables and cultivating highly nutrient-rich vegetables for self-consumption.

She further added that over the years, community members in her village have begun adopting healthier eating habits through awareness and education initiatives.

In addition, the workshop also discussed the means to address the post-harvest challenges in agriculture, school feeding programme and highlighted other critical areas where farmers can contribute through their agricultural products.