Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay officially launched the EU-funded Rural Development and Climate Change Response Programme in Thimphu yesterday.

The EU will provide EUR 21.5 million (M) for various developmental activities to be implemented until 2020. The projects will assist Bhutan in reducing poverty and inequality and enhance resilience to climate change impacts.

Speaking at the launch, the prime minister said Bhutan values its relation with the EU and helps Bhutan graduate from the group of Least Developed Countries (LDC). “We want to graduate from the LDC group with dignity and pride,” he said.

That the cooperation between the EU and Bhutan is growing is testimony that the EU trusts Bhutan, he said. “The EU is confident in Bhutan’s governance,” he said.

Close to 69 percent of the population is directly dependent on agriculture, which provides employment to about 58 percent of the population. The agriculture sector contributes close to 17 percent to the GDP.

Pema Thinley from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in Bhutan said agriculture is one of the “five jewels” of the economy. He said the programme will help Bhutan mitigate climate change impacts.

The EU-Bhutan cooperation started in 1982 when the first agreement on the Planet Services Project was signed. Since then numerous activities have been undertaken, particularly in Bhutan’s agriculture and livestock sectors and human resource development and trade promotion.

MB Subba