RSPN helps farmers secure livelihood through improved farming practices


The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) is helping farmers in Bardo gewog, Zhemgang, become familiar with farming practices that are environmentally, socially, and ecologically sound.

Two farmers’ groups were formed in Langdurbi and Phulabi chiwogs in the gewog since RSPN started a project that aims to develop climate-resilient and agro-ecological farming practices in the gewog.

The project that began in September 2021 also plans to develop market linkages and promote sustainable farming practices, improve soil and water conservation, and enhance agriculture production through technology transfer and product diversification.

Farmers from Bardo said the project reduced the practice of slash and burn cultivation, commonly known as shifting cultivation, which involves burning acres of forest cover for farming.

Farmers are encouraged to use improved seeds and greenhouses.

Bardo gewog mangmi, Tshering Tenzin, said the project worked in consultation with the people to understand the need for improved livelihood.

“The project aims to make us independent and improve our economic status,” he said.

He said slash and burn cultivation was not completely stopped in the gewog today.

“Forest was cleared and burnt even for maize cultivation in the past. Today, farmers continue the practice only to plant paddy seedlings,” said Tshering Tenzin.

The steep farmlands in Bardo are improved through sustainable land management practices and by planting Napier grasses. The lands left barren and empty are made cultivable, according to the farmers.

RSPN also helped the farmers with farm machinery and other important agriculture tools.

Almost all five chiwogs in Bardo are located near Chamkhar Chhu basin, which is known for the common sightings of the critically endangered bird species, the White Bellied Heron.

The project helped farmers become aware of bird sightings and the need for undisturbed habitats for the wildlife after RSPN started the project.

The communities were informed about the bird and its significance.

“People were not aware of the white-bellied heron before the project. Several awareness meetings were held in the gewog. People are interested in conservation and aware of the need to secure their habitats,” said Tshering Tenzin.

As part of the ongoing project, rapid assessment and mapping of watersheds were conducted in 39 water sources in Langdurbi and Phulabi chiwogs.

The assessment found no watersheds in two chiwogs to be critically degraded.

According to a press release from RSPN, few areas around water sources were found disturbed and required necessary intervention to prevent further deterioration,

Two women groups were formed in the respective chiwogs.

A draft marketing plan was developed for both groups with the help of gewog agriculture extension.

The project also provided training on sustainable agriculture, land management, and organic agriculture.

Farmers were also taught the techniques of simple low-cost vegetable seedling production using a mini poly house.

The activities implemented are expected to help complement the government’s effort to meet the objective of agriculture enhancement and food sufficiency, which is a priority in the face of the pandemic.

Officials from RSPN said pursuing  agriculture and rearing livestock was challenging due to vulnerability to climate variability and low productivity owing to rugged terrain, inefficient farming, wildlife encroachment, and market accessibility. 

“Dependence on natural ecosystem services or resources was high. Appropriate interventions through the current project for the long-term sustenance of agriculture are necessary,” an official said.

Canada Foundation/Canada Fund supported the project for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which is expected to end in February 2023.