Chhimi Dema 

To transform the agri-food systems and address the current challenges, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is supporting the government on a project called Productive and Sustainable Food Systems for Environmental Benefits and Gross National Happiness.

High dependency on food imports, constraints to agriculture production, strong rural-urban migration and increasing fallow land are some aspects of Bhutan’s current food system.

FAO defines agri-food systems as food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, and other sources such as synthetic biology that are intended for human consumption.

The food systems project aims to transform agri-food systems at the farm, landscape and value-chain levels.

FAO’s country representative for Bhutan and Nepal, Ken Shimizu, said that the food systems project would support the government in accelerating the implementation of the national pathways for agri-food systems transformation.

“It would provide support to the promotion of agri-businesses, agri-value chain development and digital agriculture innovation with youth inclusion,” he said.

The project aims to enhance agriculture productivity and production helping the farmers increase access to the market for their produce. This is expected to increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods.

The project would be implemented through nature-based solutions to help sustain and protect natural resources while increasing agricultural production and productivity.

The potential project areas are Mongar, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, and Lhuentse.

FAO held the National Stakeholder Workshop on the food systems project on December 6 with relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, WWF Bhutan, Loden Foundation, financial institutions, and others for effective collaboration and cooperation during the project implementation.

The stakeholder consultation was also carried out on the project Building Climate Resilient Water Resources in Bhutan.

Ken Shimizu, said that the meeting was to incorporate advice and suggestions from the stakeholders in developing the two projects. He said that FAO wants to ensure that relevant stakeholders are involved and there is synergy with the activities that they are also implementing.

Stakeholders recommended activities to increase livestock production, address human-wildlife conflicts, incorporate indigenous knowledge, and build the human resource capacity of those involved in the agri-food systems process.

The FAO will prepare and submit a proposal to the Global Environment Facility for funding.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a multilateral environmental fund that provides grants and blended finance for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, persistent organic pollutants, mercury, sustainable forest management, food security, and sustainable cities in developing countries.

It is the largest source of multilateral funding for biodiversity globally and distributes more than USD one billion a year on average to address inter-related environmental challenges.

FAO is also supporting a project to mainstream climate change in Bhutan’s water sector.

The project will be implemented in Lhuentse, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Samdrupjongkhar, Trashigang, and Trashiyangtse along the Drangmechhu river basin to improve the climate-resilient basin management and adaptive resilience.

Ken Shimizu said that the project will contribute to the national flagship programme on water resource management and provide support to strengthen water resources, management and governance at the national level.

He said that it would support river basin management, building resilient watershed through spring shed management, climate-proofing of infrastructures related to water resources and supporting households and communities to adopt adaptation actions.

FAO will submit a proposal worth USD 36.1 million to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Secretariat for the project.

The Green Climate Fund is a fund established within the framework of the UNFCCC as an operating entity of the financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

FAO is accredited by GCF and GEF to implement projects they support. Accredited entities work alongside countries to come up with project ideas and submit funding proposals for the GCF and GEF Boards to approve.