Choki Wangmo 

By the end of this year, the distribution networks of irrigation channels in five dzongkhags are expected to complete bringing about 1,320 hectares of wetland under paddy cultivation.

The Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project (FSAPP) with USD 9.35 million (M) targeted more than 10,000 households out of which 30 percent of the beneficiaries are women.

The five-year project, which ends this year, aims to reduce rural poverty, food insecurity, the country’s reliance on food imports, and malnutrition in children through increased agricultural productivity in the 24 gewogs of Chukha, Dagana, Haa, Samtse, and Sarpang. The dzongkhags were selected based on the level of poverty.

Project director Jigme Dorji said that an outcome survey found that the volume of the crop production was 8,277 metric tonnes (MT) against the baseline of 3,392.89MT, recording a total value of Nu 572M against the baseline of Nu 302.74M of the marketed value of the target crops.

Currently, 7,000 households and about 30,000 people in the selected gewogs benefit from the project, he said.

The project supported farmers with a supply of seeds and seedlings, greenhouses, mulching plastics, drip irrigation and use of labour-saving machinery like mini tillers, and grass cutters among others.

“The use of mini tillers for land preparation in vegetable production has greatly enhanced the per hour outputs resulting in less labour need and promoting farm mechanisation.”

The dzongkhags initiated linking farmers with the schools as a market for their produce. Jigme Dorji said such moves had improved access to quality local products compared to the earlier practice of tendering the school mess procurement system from imports.

The project constructed four major irrigation schemes in Sarpang and Samtse which were completed and handed over to the communities since last fiscal year.

Jigme Dorji said that channels were constructed using polyethylene pipes from the intake to the distribution point ensuring minimal loss of water. However, construction works were hampered by the pandemic.

The project also supported building sales outlets and supplying improved seeds to increase productivity of citrus, potato, paddy, vegetables, and cardamom.

Although the major component of the project budget was focused on increasing crop productivity, Jigme Dorji said the project might need to promote marketing actors in the supply chain and support them in ways like cold chain transportation and cold storages of highly perishable produce.  It would make food safe and available during such times as the Covid-19, he added.

The project would address inter-connected problems faced by farmers and rural households through a set of integrated, consolidated, and area-specific interventions that respond to local constraints, potentials and priorities.