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A new irrigation scheme worth Nu 36.8 million has failed in Samtse, leaving more than 300 households dismayed and 100 acres of fallow land parched.   

After spending Nu 70 million on drinking water supply, Chuzangang, one of the biggest gewogs in Sarpang, still gets water only two hours a day. 

In Paro, the government invested more than Nu 10 million for water projects in Shari gewog but it did not serve the purpose. 

These are major water projects that have failed despite prioritising the works and pumping in enormous amounts.  

It is a tragic irony that in a water-rich country, many of the villages face acute scarcity of water, be it for irrigation or for drinking. And the consequences are widespread and grave.

The pipelines of the new Tharaykhola Irrigation Scheme in Samtse were crushed by the falling boulders and in some areas, they have been completely washed away. The contractor was asked to fix the damage but work has still not begun. This has been difficult for the farmers. 

So much time has already been lost. Some of them have big plans to carry out commercial agriculture but cannot because the much-needed resource is missing. For others, their hard work has simply gone to waste, evident in the poor crop yield. 

In the case of Chuzangang in Gelephu and Shari in Paro, the sources have either been washed away by a flash flood or the source has dried up. 

Our strategies need to change with changing times and conditions. The policies and implementation must dovetail and new technologies swiftly adopted. 

Only 29 percent of the arable land in the country is properly irrigated. Due to poor irrigation facilities, agriculture has remained largely dependent on precipitation which makes farming and food production vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and highly susceptible to climate variability and change. 

Increased reliance on imported food, achieving food and nutritional security and alleviation of poverty continue to pose a challenge in Bhutan.

Covid-19 has drawn the agriculture sector into the limelight. Both citizens and government have begun investing time, energy, and money. An agriculture stimulus plan worth Nu 944 million (M) was initiated to strengthen food security through domestic production, creating employment and income opportunities. 

Every year on World Food Day schools are rewarded for teaching and inspiring students to grow their own food. If the situation on the ground does not improve, there is little hope for them to use their knowledge or we are giving them false hopes.  

Food security is central to a sustainable, equitable and secured future for Bhutan.

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