Under the general grants aid assistance of GoJ, large numbers are not provided

Farming: A first batch of 400 power tillers of the 1,450 requested from the Japanese government is expected to arrive in 2017, according to the agriculture ministry.

While the Japanese cabinet has not officially accepted the request and it is still under consideration, a preliminary survey team from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was in the country to discuss project implementation.

“We recognise that the cooperation on farm mechanisation is very important for Bhutan, which would not only enhance agricultural productivity, but also reduce the unemployment rate of young Bhutanese through preventing their turning away from agriculture,” a spokesperson for the embassy of Japan in New Delhi, responded by email, earlier last month. “The proposal from the government is under consideration by the government of Japan now.”

However, the Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) programme director, Karma Thinlay, who met with the JICA team, said the power tillers could be delivered by 2017, at the earliest.  He added the team was in Bhutan to conduct a detailed study on how the power tillers would be utilised, and who the beneficiaries would be.

The survey team also discussed how the project would be implemented, a feasible structure for the effective use of the power tillers, scale and delivery schedule and ownership of grant, among others, according to information on the agriculture ministry’s website.

The government has requested that the power tillers be delivered in batches.

Agriculture secretary Tenzin Dhendup said a first batch could comprise only 400 power tillers, as larger numbers are not provided under the general grants aid assistance, under which Bhutan will now be receiving the machines.

Previously, Bhutan has been receiving power tillers and other farm machinery from Japan under the now discontinued KR-II grant assistance.  A total of 2,795 power tillers were received under KR-II.

Director Karma Thinlay said that, under the general grants assistance scheme, many more processes are involved, and that one more survey team from Japan will be in Bhutan next year to study the issue further.

The power tillers, received under the general grants assistance, will be distributed to hiring services at the gewog level.

Karma Thinlay said that the target was for the gewog hiring service centres to cover 20,000 acres of farmland with 370 machines by 2016.

With the aid of the KR-II grants, 13,099 acres of farmland have been mechanised.

There are currently 131 power tillers available through gewog hiring service centres.  More power tillers will be added by May, when the last batch provided under the KR-II grant is released by AMC.  Under the last batch, AMC received 239 power tillers.

The prime minister made the request for the 1,450 power tillers when he visited the island state in July, last year.

By Gyalsten K Dorji