Cooperation: Representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Gross National Happiness Commission yesterday signed the final agreement completing the process for grant aid of USD 2.4 million to procure 353 power tillers from Japan.

The agreement for the project ‘Improvement of farm machinery for hiring services of tillage’ was signed between JICA’s chief representative Koji Yamada and GNHC secretary Thinley Namgyel in the presence of the agriculture minister.

The grant has come after the government requested the Japanese government for power tillers in 2014. The project was confirmed in May 2016.

The power tillers will take a year to arrive in the country.

“The initial request was for 1,400 power tillers and the Japanese government agreed to give 353 power tillers which is the highest number in one batch so far,” a GNHC official said.

Bhutanese have largely benefitted from farm mechanisation, mainly in the rural areas, said  agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji.

Since 1983, Bhutan has received 3,186 power tillers through the KR2 grant programme.

Japan’s continued assistance in the agriculture sector has improved the livelihoods of the farmers and brought about significant changes in agriculture activities in the country, the minister said.

He said that given the impact of the initiative, the government would request for more assistance.

“Farmers prefer  power tillers from Japan and  we still would pursue our request for some more grants,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.

So far in the 11th Plan the government has distributed 650 power tillers, according to agriculture officials.

Close to 60 percent of the population depends on agriculture in the country. The country has only eight percent arable land of which roughly about three percent is cultivated. Farm mechanisation is critical in increasing food production and productivity, which is one of the main priority areas for the ministry in the 11th Plan.

Koji Yamada said that the power tillers are a symbol of Japan’s commitment to Bhutan to help rural communities and achieve self-sufficiency.

“As the rural communities grow with such farm mechanisation initiatives, we urge the youth to explore the potential in agriculture and other sector in these communities for employment,” Koji Yamada said.

He said JICA is working with the Farm Machinery Corporation on different models of using the power tillers.

Tshering Palden