The SP-RNRS is expected to bring better coordination and help build capacity in the ministry 

Data: Bhutan will conduct its first international standard agriculture census next year to meet crucial data input in fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Bhutan has been lauded for its achievements with the millennium development goals. But quality statistics are critical in meeting the SDGs, agriculture ministry officials said.

The country conducted a renewable natural resources (RNR) census in 2009. However, agriculture officials said that it was not up to the international standards.

The agriculture census next year  will use preparatory works of the Population and Housing Census such as house listing that would be conducted this year.

The ministry’s chief planning officer, Kencho Thinley, said: “This is mainly to save cost as both the surveys are of internationally recognised formats.”

After a successful pilot study in Haa on improving estimation of livestock products, the ministry is replicating it in three other dzongkhags this year to mainstream the technology in the annual livestock census.

Kencho Thinley said that similar studies will be carried out in the three dzongkhags to improve crop statistics with the support of Food and Agriculture Organisation.

He said the country joined the Global Strategy to Improve Agriculture and Rural Statistics (GSARS) and took numerous steps it recommended to enable integration of agriculture statistics in to the national statistical development strategy (NSDS).

The strategic plan of the RNR statistics (SP-RNRS) is based on the identification of minimum set of the core data, integration of RNR statistics in the NSDS, and fostering sustainability of statistical system through governance and capacity building.

An in-depth country assessment was conducted in August 2014, following which the proposal for improving RNR statistics was prepared in November of that year. The government endorsed a roadmap for the strategic plan for RNR statistics in September last year.

The ministry formed a RNR statistics committee in its policy and planning division for better coordination and it is expected that the government will endorse the SP-RNRS next month.

The SP-RNRS is expected to bring better coordination and help build capacity in the ministry.

Agriculture ministry’s officiating secretary, Chencho Norbu, said the top two earners in the country, hydropower and tourism, are dependent on the ecosystem services provided by proper management of forest and farming systems.

“The difficult terrain continues to pose huge challenges in effective and timely data collection even as the interior villages are being connected through farm roads,” Chencho Norbu said.

He added: “In spite of our best efforts to streamline data collection, analysis and use for informed policy decisions, there are huge barriers to overcome as long-term systemic strengthening is often times side-tracked when quick fixes take priority in response to addressing immediate data gap issues.”

So far, individual departments and agencies collected information own their own and data comparability was an issue. With the agriculture survey, information on agriculture, livestock and forestry departments would be uniform and most reliable.

“It’s the basic for scientific and evidence-based decisions for national development policies and programmes more important for a developing country like Bhutan,” Kencho Thinley said.

Given the importance of the sector in the country’s socio-economic development, statistical system has to be robust that meets the changing needs of changing times.

“Hence developing an efficiently coordinated natural resources statistics system is critical,” said Kencho Thinley.

Tshering Palden