A workshop on horticulture by the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) was held in Thimphu on 4 July. A total of 14 AFACI member countries; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Bhutan and Korea participated in the workshop, aimed at improving food and nutrition security through sustainable agriculture.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, currently appointed as the Chairman of AFACI, said that the implementation of AFACI supported projects is instrumental in supporting the ministry’s national programs.
He added that ministry has initiated the concept of an ‘organic model village’ through AFACI funding, with plans to replicate the model in villages across Bhutan. This also fits in with the national mandate of improving food and nutrition security and income generation.
“Improving food and nutrition security situations, improving rural livelihood and reducing poverty and enhancing cash income for subsistence farmers, most importantly, the capacity building of our researchers and extension officers,”Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said.
He said Bhutan is committed towards continuing its partnership with AFACI and member countries. The AFACI horticulture project has helped in solving agriculture issues in Asia. An example stated was the post-harvest loss rate of tomatoes was reduced from 24 percent to 15 percent. Due to the effects of reduced post-harvest loss, it helped to increase the income from 3 percent to 20 percent, AFACI stated.
The Director General of Technology Cooperation Bureau said, “This workshop will help to share technologies on horticulture among AFACI member countries.”
The chief planning officer, MoAF, Kencho Thinley, said that the goal of establishing an organization like AFACI is to create high impact results in the horticulture programs in the Asian region, ultimately contributing to the sustainable agriculture growth in the region. “AFACI supports various projects to member countries projects to member countries, and I hope that it is creating some impact at various levels in the respective countries. I am happy to report that AFACI projects are well pegged with our national programs,” he said.
For Bhutan, there are nine different projects supported by AFACI, with the total of USD 336,000 disbursed till now. Development of locally-appropriate GAP program and agriculture products safety information, establishment of network and model manual on post-harvest technology of horticulture crops in Asia, construction of epidemiology information and inter charge system for migratory disease and insect pest in Asia region are some of the programs implemented in Bhutan.
Likewise, integrated management system of plant genetic resources, establishment of agricultural, technology information network in Asia, construction of the Asian network for sustainable organic farming technology, improving animal genetic resources value and production performance, technology dissemination of virus- free seed potato production using hydroponic production system and demonstration project to distribute national superior seeds of food crops and transfer agriculture technology are among the other projects taken up.
Two projects on seed potato and integrated management system for plant genetic resources (IMPGR) have been recently terminated, however, one new project on development and dissemination of agriculture product processing technology project is an upcoming project to be implemented in the 2018-2019 phase in Bhutan.
Kencho Thinley said apart from the development of the organic model farming village, the GAP project has immensely contributed to the accreditation of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), and contributed in determining the post-harvest losses in major fruits and vegetables in Bhutan.
“We were able to conduct characterization and documentation of traditional animal genetic resources and develop a national animal genetic resources information system,” Kencho Thinley said, and further added, “The ministry is able to disseminate RNR information and technologies, both online and in hard copies. During the last one year, we have distributed over 5,500 copies of RNR extension manual.”
Further, he added that it has helped in capacity building for researchers and extension officers. “Capacity building is one of the important activities under various projects.” He added, “So far, Bhutan is able to send about 40 different officials for various trainings, seminars and meetings abroad.”