At a time when our arable land is increasingly becoming smaller, it is reassuring to learn that agriculture ministry is making efforts to reclaim cultivable land.
So far, the ministry has reclaimed more than 200 acres of land for cultivation. This is good news, but more needs to be done.
We are losing vast acres of our cultivable land every year as development reaches far and deep into the rural pockets of the country. Development comes with cost. How we balance between gain and loss is, therefore, crucial.
Rural to urban migration is on the rise what with education and the enticing picture of the seemingly easy city life. While in the towns, traditional family structure is fast disintegrating as more and more senior citizens are coming out to beg on the streets.
Human-wildlife conflict is another significant factor due to which increasing number of our farmers are leaving their land fallow. These are the challenges facing agriculture in the country. In certain parts of the country, particularly in the east, people are leaving their land uncultivated because of lack of water. Weak irrigation systems are at the core of the problem, which in the extreme cases, have led to people abandoning their village homes.
How are we addressing these issues that will emerge to be a complicated problem very soon?
And, according to some studies, Bhutan is losing about 3.34 tonnes of topsoil per hectare every year, which calls for sincere dedication to employ sustainable land management techniques and practices. The fact is, even with sustainable land management techniques, Bhutan is losing at least 12 million tonnes of topsoil every year. And with gradual shrinking of our cultivable land due to rapid urbanisation, the country’s dream of achieving food self-sufficiency is at stake.
How do we face up to our own vision and dreams?
It is vitally important, therefore, that our limited arable land is managed prudently for optimal utilisation. What the government could do is reclaim the land left uncultivated and encourage young and educated youth to take up large-scale commercial farming with certain incentives and subsidies. This will go a long way in reducing the burden of food import on the government and the people.
But then, what section of budget pie does agriculture get from the nation budget? How forthcoming is our financial sector to encourage large-scale and viable farming? Our agriculture development policies should begin with these questions.
It is high time that we had an integrated national land use policy and robust land management plan together with a strong institutional capacity for effective implementation of land management plans and initiatives.
Limited as our arable land is, it is critically important that we grow enough. There is only a thin line between national sovereignty and food security.