YK Poudel

Bhutan has embarked on agri-tourism and labelling initiatives to boost exports and improve the business environment.

This was discussed during the panel discussion titled, ‘Climate resilience and agrifood systems: What can Bhutan offer?’ at the Bhutan Agrifood Trade and Investment Forum (BATIF) 2024.

Agri-tourism refers to recreational activities based on farms, where tourists visit agricultural areas for leisure and educational purposes.

In Bhutan, agri-tourism plays a crucial role in promoting climate resilience and enhancing the agrifood system.

Since 2009, Bhutan has actively engaged in discussions on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) to promote self-sufficiency, mitigate emissions, and foster sustainability. This strategy is in line with national policies such as the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and the Low-Emission Development Strategy (LEDS).

Chencho Norbu, the former executive director of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organisation, highlighted that traditional farming methods continue to dominate in Bhutan, with 76 percent of farmers relying on traditional practices. Only approximately 24 percent of agricultural land is mechanized.

“Over the centuries, farmers have locally practiced climate-smart agriculture through mixed practices, especially in dry lands,” he said. “Modern plans, including the LEDs and NDC 2021 in mitigation, focus on shifting from synthetic to organic fertilizers by 5 percent annually.”

The NAP 2023, he said, emphasises annual dialogues on climate change adaptation among policymakers, private sectors, and civil society organizations (CSOs).

“Policy makers must integrate climate change actions identified in the NAP and NDCs into national plans and programmes in line with national budgeting and planning procedures before any steps towards financing,” Chencho Norbu said.

Officiating director general of the department of tourism, Damcho Rinzin, pointed out the feasibility of tourism, climate, and agrifood in Bhutan, noting that tourists seek natural experiences and are interested in learning about local Bhutanese culture.

“Bhutan is an organic farming destination with opportunities to leverage eco-agri tourism,” Damcho Rinzin said.

About 80 percent of tourists visiting Bhutan, he said, were willing to pay a higher price for local products. Of these, 33 percent are motivated by reducing their carbon footprint, while 38 percent are interested in knowing the origin of the products.

Supporting the idea, the lead of agribusiness and services at Asia upstream advisory, IFC, Ernest Bethe, expressed interest in investing and providing funding support for commercially viable projects in Bhutan.

Similarly, the senior nutrition advisor of the World Food Programme (WFP) for the Asia Pacific Region, Filippo Dibari, highlighted the WFP’s achievements in Bhutan, particularly in integrating the School Agriculture Programme (SAP).

“The WFP in Bhutan, focuses on achieving two main outcomes by 2030: Establishing climate-resilient livelihoods and enhancing food security and nutrition, strengthening human capital and creating a food system that can withstand climate crises and shocks,” Filippo Dibari said.

Country Strategic Plan 2024-2028 of Bhutan reflects malnutrition, gender barriers, and sustainable food systems as some of the key challenges Bhutan. “To address these issues, the WFP will invest USD 14,603,177 in the 13th Plan,” the Plan states.

The chief of the policy and planning division, agriculture and livestock ministry, Karma Tshering, said that the 13th Plan was bold, aiming for an annual growth of 7 to 8 percent, up from the current 3 percent.

“While, eco-labelling is viable in national context, export procedure is a challenge for Bhutan where export is minimal,” Karma Tshering said.

To meet these challenges, he said, leveraging partnerships in agri-tourism would allow Bhutan to have sustainable and eco-friendly labelling systems where consumers including the tourists make informed choices of the commodities.


The Department of Agriculture in it 13th Plan will prioritise: promotion of large-scale commercial farming; enhancing support for subsistence farming to improve livelihoods and ensure food security; promotion of high-value products for export markets; enhancing ecosystem services for sustainable and resilient biodiversity initiatives; and improving the governance mechanism to enhance the business ecosystem.

Globally, the agri-tourism market size was USD 45 billion in 2021, increasing to USD 65.7 billion in 2023, with expectations to reach USD 141 billion by 2030.

Research indicates that 89 percent of consumers have shifted their shopping behaviour towards buying sustainable products. Similarly, the global green marketing size, valued at USD 51 billion in 2022, is projected to reach USD 63 billion by 2028.