The agriculture ministry has written to the finance ministry to release Nu16 million for the establishment of a human wildlife conflict (HWC) endowment fund that it expects to begin from next year.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said the ministry is in consultation with the European Union seeking financial support to establish the endowment fund.

The ministry targets to raise at least USD 35 million. So far it has gathered Nu 40 million. The government would add Nu 16M every year to the fund.

The fund would serve as seed money and compensations to crop or livestock losses paid from its interest.

Most Bhutanese farmers are small farm holders. The minister said that for these farmers, insuring crops and livestock is a big task.

“For them it is necessary for the government to compensate without them having to pay a premium,” lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said.

The previous government disbursed Nu 300,000 to each gewog to compensate farmers on human wildlife conflict instances.

The budget fell short in most gewogs, which experienced more instances of human wildlife conflicts or predation by wildlife while others had no claims. “Some gewogs misused the fund for other activities,” he said.

The government has asked the gewogs to return this fund to supplement the endowment fund, the minister said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said the crop insurance scheme in place was not efficient and sustainable as there was not enough fund.

The human-wildlife conflict committees also known as gewog environment conservation committees were formed with an initial seed money of Nu 0.5 million from the government to compensate in some form the loss of livestock or crops to wild animals.

Since its inception in 2010, 46 such committees were formed in 15 dzongkhags across the country by 2017. The forestry department had a target of establishing 126 such committees by the end of the 11th Plan from 11 in 2012.

However, the government did not allocate any budget in the 2016-17 financial year despite the ministry having targeted to establish 36 more committees during the financial year on sustainability issues.

The new endowment fund operation would be centralised and disbursement made from the ministry in Thimphu. The claims have to be routed through the local governments. The ministry has guidelines but implementation has been a problem.

The finance ministry earlier this year approved opening a current deposit (CD) account for an endowment fund with an allocation of Nu 20M in the financial year 2018-19.

Tshering Palden