Chhimi Dema 

With more than 44 percent of Bhutanese children being anaemic, achieving nutrition security has become a daunting task. The country’s food and nutrition security is also going to worsen from the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock launched the Million Fruit Tree Project on March 15 last year with support from the De-suung National Service.

The project’s phase one engaged 2,576 de-suups, and the mortality survey which was conducted from October to November engaged 475 de-suups.

Today, in the second phase of the project 835 de-suups are in the field planting fruit trees for farmers as a way of giving back to the community. A total of 1,125 de-suups are expected to engage in subtropical plantation from May to June.

The project’s coordinator, Sonam Wangchuk, said that the fruit trees were granted as Royal soelra to the farmers for strengthening their livelihood and enhancing nutrition.

He said the project creates employment and provides de-suups with the opportunity to understand and experience rural livelihood.

Tashiding gewog in Dagana’s coordinator for the project, Kezang Chuki, said that the project provides hands-on farming experience and learning about type of fruits.

Kezang Chuki served as gewog gojay in the first phase of the project as well. “I am motivated to serve our Tsawa-Sum with my youth and energy,” she said. “At times access to limited resource was a challenge.”

De-suups with the project carry out unloading, sorting and distribution of the fruit seedlings. They receive five days of training on orchard management including the use of a mobile application for geo-coding the locations of the seedlings.

In the first phase of the project, farmers in 201 gewogs received seedlings.

In the second phase, farmers of 197 gewogs in 20 dzongkhags would receive temperate and subtropical fruit seedlings.

The fruit trees planted in the temperate zones are pecan nut, persimmon, plum, walnut, almond, apple, apricot, chestnut, kiwi, peach, pear, and cherry.

Nine varieties of fruit trees consisting of dragon fruit, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, pomegranate, avocado, banana, and citrus are distributed for plantation in the sub-tropical region.

Sonam Wangchuk said that de-suups in the field face difficulty in transporting the seedlings to households without road connection.

“De-suups carry the seedlings on their back and walk long distances. This drains human resources thereby hindering timely completion of fieldwork and post-plantation follow-up,” he said.

Despite the challenges, de-suups see the project as an opportunity to contribute to nation-building.

The de-suung dzongkhag project coordinator in Sarpang, Gyem Gyaltshen, said, “This project instils a sense of humility, and builds respect for our farmers. I can give back to the nation being a de-suup.”