Chhimi Dema

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) with support from the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) is focusing on strengthening food security of the country through knowledge sharing and technical support.

AFACI is an inter-governmental and multilateral cooperation body which aims to improve food production and promote sustainable agriculture in Asian countries through knowledge and technology transfer and sharing.

The AFACI currently supports six projects in the country.

Since Bhutan’s membership with AFACI in 2016, the country received support in the fields of sustainable organic farming technology; managing plant genetic resources; migratory diseases and insect pests control; post-harvest technology of horticulture crops and improving animal genetic resources, among others.

Bhutan hosted the sixth general assembly of AFACI from August 29 to 31 this year.

The 15-member countries, during the general assembly, passed a joint resolution to form a collaborative action to support the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal target to end hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

Director General of AFACI, Taek-Ryoun Kwon (PhD), said that food security is a top priority around the world.

He said that Bhutan might need an enhanced effort to relieve food security at this moment.

In Bhutan, to transform the country’s food systems, eight-fold pathway was recognised by MoAF that was presented during the AFACI general assembly.

The food system pathways will look into reimagining foundations of the agriculture sector such as developing comprehensive plans for soil fertility, land use, and land lease; secure investments and technology to stem wildlife conflict; secure inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and machinery, among others.

MoAF’s chief of policy and planning division, Karma Tshering, said that to transform the Bhutanese agriculture system, the country will need support in all forms.

He said that AFACI’s general assembly is a platform for the member countries to share their knowledge and seek technical guidance in the farming sector to strengthen the country’s food system.

The country since it became a member of AFACI has been getting USD 40,000 to 50,000 yearly as a grant.

AFACI provides technical assistance at their cost and gives short and long-term training to the member countries, Karma Tshering said.

He said that this support was critical in transforming the country’s agriculture sector.

AFACI was launched on November 3, 2009.

Bhutan agreed to host in 2019 but the pandemic delayed the event until this year.

The member countries of the initiative during the general assembly amended AFACI regulation, passed a resolution on food security, and reviewed the highlights of the meeting.

The general assembly also approved three new projects for AFACI such as developing stress-tolerant, high-yielding rice varieties suitable for AFACI member countries; establishing of Asian food composition database; and improving the rural agricultural technology extension system in Asia.

Taek-Ryoun Kwon (PhD) said that AFACI will work with Bhutanese experts to identify agriculture challenges in Bhutan so that they can find the most suitable solution for the country and introduce the most appropriate technology.

The initiative is fully funded by the Republic of Korea and grant money to the member countries is mobilised internally.

The sixth AFACI general assembly appointed Nepal as the chair for the next three years.

Bhutan was the chair of the sixth AFACI general assembly.