Visit: A room in Langthel Lower Secondary School in Trongsa is filled with about 100 people. Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay is speaking.

“If you have questions, raise you hands,” says Lyonchoen.

There is a hand up in the air among the crowd. It is Kunzang Deki from Langthel. She has the microphone.

Kunzang Deki thanks Lyonchoen for the visit. Trongsa experienced some landslides and floods recently. There is also the issue of human-wildlife conflict in the dzongkhags.

“Loss of crops to the wild animals is the biggest problem we face,” says Kunzang Deki. Farmers have to guard their fields day and night. In the end, animals take away good portion of crops. And there is no market where farmers can sell their produce.

Onion was a good crop last year. But there was no market for farmers.

“Marketing is a major obstacle. The project [Mandgdechhu] doesn’t buy from us,” say Kunzang Deki. What farmers need is electric fence and market where farmers can sell their produce.

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay responds to the question with quiet ease. There will be funds for electric fence and market sheds will be built. There will be supply of power tillers to livelihood of the farmers. “ Human-wildlife conflict is a national issue. The immediate solution is electric fencing, which has proven very effective.”

A significant amount of funds current fiscal year has been allocated to buying electric fencing. “Gewog development grants also must be chanelled to procure electric fences,” says Lyonchoen. And the marketing issue will be resolved once one stop farmer’s shop in every gewog is opened. The shops will buy and sell farming tools and seeds. They will be the link between the farmers and the market.

“The farmers’ shops will buy farm produce from the farmers with an objective to supply to boarding schools across the country,” says Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay. The crowd is convinced.

Almost 60 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and the government is also now channeling more resources in agriculture sector. Because empowering agriculture is the only way to realise self-sufficiency, the government is planning to turn farming to centre of developmental plans.

“If Bhutan is to progress, agriculture must develop first,” says Lyonchoen adding but self-sufficiency cannot be attained without improving the livelihood of the farmers. Government’s plan to provide power tillers is one such plan to improve the livelihood of the farmers.

By Tempa Wangdi, Trongsa