Agriculture Ministry exceeded its targets

Apart from the targets achieved during the last five years from July 2013 to June 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF) also implemented various activities that were not part of the 11th Five Year Plan targets, which shows how the ministry was able to deliberately take on board things as they emerged instead of only focusing on planned activities.

According to the 11th FYP Terminal Report for MoAF, which was launched during the World Rangers’ Day on 31 July, the ministry mainly focused on improving food and nutrition security, enhance rural livelihood and sustainable management and utilization of natural resources.

The 11th FYP goals and objectives of the agriculture and forestry sector were realized through the implementation of various programs, overcoming many difficulties.

Agriculture Lyonpo said, “Agriculture development in Bhutan has been a challenge due to factors such as, geographic location, rough terrain, climatic factors, limited arable land, labour shortages, human-wildlife conflicts, pest and diseases, limited market and insufficient irrigation.”

He said, “However, data inconsistency, line agencies working in silo, the post production losses and value chain development, and a lack of standards for farm products and pricing are major issues and challenges that the RNR sector needs to work on.”

Food Safety and Bio-Security Program

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) has developed bio-security Infrastructures, strengthened food safety system, revised its rules and regulations, strengthened National Food Testing Laboratory (NFTL) and certified one organic farmers’ group at Gasa-based on Bhutan Organic Certification System (BOCS) guidelines.

BAFRA signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Department of Agriculture and Extension, Bangladesh and Export Inspection Council, India. Agriculture Minister said, “Such activities are aimed at facilitating trade and to gain market access in the region”.

The Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) which was built by MoAF was initially managed by Thimphu Thromde, but in 2009 with cabinet’s decision, CFM was handed over to BAFRA. Within the short span of time, BAFRA made tremendous improvements in various areas.

Field Crops and Horticulture Commodity Program

A total of 307 research activities were carried out, of which 224 improved technologies were generated. One research sub-centre in Panbang, Zhemgang and another sub-centre in Sombeykha, Haa were established. Similarly, five improved technologies on farming tools and implements were released by Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC).

Under soil conservation, about 188 acres of Napier hedgerows in eastern dzongkhags and another 450 acres were put under improved soil fertility management practices. . The first ever reconnaissance soil map for the country was also developed which was officially launched on 5 December 2017.

In order to boost production and substitute chilli imports during winter, with a total budget of Nu 22.549 mn, the ministry promoted chilli production in 2017 to 2018 fiscal year in 56 gewogs of 8 dzongkhags.

Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Program

In the 11th plan, 90.47 km of new irrigation schemes were constructed and 144 channels renovated by the ministry, in addition to 405 KM constructed and renovated by the dzongkhags. Starting with 1 irrigation storage tank in 2012, there are 34 tanks.  This means total land brought under irrigation is 67,955 acres in 2017.

About 1,200 power tillers were mobilized of which 1,115 were all distributed to the 205 gewogs for hiring on subsidized rate while 85 was either sold or distributed by end of June 2018.

Farm road construction saw continued emphasis over the last 10 years. During the 10th plan, 4,176 km were constructed and renovated and the 11th plan saw another 5,363 km of farm roads.

One major push given was in protection of crops from wildlife damage through the installation of electric fencing. From just 18 km of electric fencing in 2010, today 3,492 km of electric fencing have been installed as of June 2018.

Organic Program

In 2012, the estimated acreage of land under organic cultivation was 2,069. With an addition of 1,890 acres, the cumulative figure is 3,959 acres as of December 2017. From just one product certified as organic in 2012, now there are 6 products in 2017.

Sustainable Management of State Forests, Landscapes and Biodiversity Conservation

The National Forest Inventory and the Land Use and Land cover (LULC) confirmed that the total forest coverage in the country is 71 percent with an estimated tree count of over 816 mn. The sector has managed 51.44 percent of the country as protected area management network through science based functional zoning and management plans.

In order to determine the population status of endangered species such as, tiger, snow leopard and Asian elephant, three national surveys were carried out. These surveys estimated national figures of tigers at 104, snow leopards at 96 and Asian elephants at 610.

Human-Wildlife conflict incidences were reduced to less than 50 percent in the areas where Human- Wildlife Conflict (HWC) mitigation measures were put in place. Further the HWC hotspot areas were mapped covering 9 protected area offices and 10 territorial forest divisions in the country.

Integrated Watershed Management

Landscapes under Integrated Water Resources Management increased from 2 to 11 in the 11th plan. A total of 12 wetlands have been assessed, and accordingly, two management plans have been developed for Bumdeling and Buli wetlands. Additionally, Gangtey-Phobji wetlands were declared as the third international RAMSAR site in the 11th plan.

The 11th plan also saw the successful attempt made by the Bhutan for the Guinness World Record for planting 49,672 seedlings in one hour over the area of 10 hectares

Springshed management for reviving of drying springs was initiated with piloting at Lholing, Paro and capacity building for identifying recharge zones was carried out at ICIMOD, Nepal.

Livestock Development

To improve dairy cattle breed, there are 105 operational artificial insemination (AI) outreach stations in the country as of December 2017. A total of 33,543 AI were performed with progeny record of 12,822 numbers.

The milking cattle population has increased to 88,016 in 2017 from 75,953 in 2013. Milk production has been recorded at 50,250 MT in 2017. Egg production is recorded at more than 116 mn eggs in 2017 and chicken production has also increased from 788 MT in 2013 to 1348 MT at the end of 11th FYP.

Turkey breeding unit has been established at Relangthang, Sarpang in 2014, with the introduction of American bronze and Beltsville small white breeds from Thailand. Currently the farm is operating at 2000 turkey birds.

To promote trout and wild fishery, the production capacity of trout breeding center at Haa was strengthened to produce 20 MT. Further, two private farms each with the capacity to produce 3 MT of fish were also established. A total of seven community based capture fishery were established with the production capacity of 21 MT of fish annually. Domestic fish production increased from 54 MT in 2013 to 222 MT in 2017.

On the conservation front, Native Cattle and Poultry Breeding Centre were established at Sertsham, Lhuentse as a nucleus farm for promotion and conservation of indigenous livestock breeds. The farm currently houses 119 Native cattle and 250 native poultry birds.

The Integrated Livestock Farm at Samrang in an area of 812 acres was established with a budget of about Nu 441.

Biodiversity Conservation

The National Biodiversity Centre collected about 2,700 accession of plant genetic resources (PGR) and 10,638 doses of animal genetic resources (AnGR). Further, more than 816 species of living collection were stored at the Royal Botanical Garden.

The Bhutan Biodiversity Portal was officially launched on 17 December 2013 through an initiative of a consortium formed by key biodiversity data generating agencies in the country.

According to MoAF, some of the major activities implemented beyond the 11th FYP were 4 Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibitions, Royal Highland Festival, Mushroom Festival at Geneykha, revival of National Seed Board after a gap of 12 years and production of Soil Organic Carbon Map of Bhutan.

MoAF said, “Various festivals and global events were organized such as Rhododendron Festival, Bird Festival, Nomadic Festival, Jomolhari Mountain Festival, Takin Festival, Rangers Day, Tiger Day, Snow Leopard Day, World Food Day, Forestry Day, Wildlife Day and Wetland Day among others.”

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