Bhutan and Japan commemorated the milestone event of the 50th anniversary of Japanese assistance to Bhutan at the Taj Tashi Hotel on June 18.
During the event, the President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Akihito Tanaka, said, “The development is a continuum. There is no beginning or an end. 50 years is just a milestone and our journey continues. We will continue to work closely with Bhutan in the years to come.”
Akihito Tanaka said he is pleased that the ideals and vision of late Dasho Keiji Nishioka in agriculture is present in the government policy and activities of Agriculture Machinery Center (AMC) that improves the livelihood of farmers. He added that late Dasho Nishioka who came to Bhutan in 1964 lives on through the legacy of the work and progress he made in Bhutan.
“Apart from agriculture, Japan-Bhutan cooperation is active in many fields, rural infrastructure, governance, disaster management, telecom, tourism, education, health care, etc.,” he added.
The President of JICA also said that the grace and warmth of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Bhutan, during the royal visit to Fukushima, helped to subside and heal the wounds of many Japanese suffering from the ordeals of the tsunami.
“The warmth and respect that the Japanese people feel about Bhutan lies at the heart of our development cooperation efforts. Stronger development cooperation begets stronger national ties,” he said.
Gracing the event as well applauding the achievements made by late Dasho Nishioka, the Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje said, “Japanese lives have touched the lives of every Bhutanese people.” He went on to thank Japan for its continuous support and assistance in the nation’s development.
The First Secretary, Embassy of Japan in New Delhi, Hideki Taniguchi said Bhutan and Japan share a similar tradition and culture.
He said His Majesty’s visit to Fukushima in November 2011, immediately after the Great-East Japan Earthquake, has left an indelible memory in Japanese hearts.
He said the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness shares a common feature with human security, which the Japanese government promotes. He further said JICA will work with the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research to carry out the third GNH survey scheduled in September this year.
Taniguichi added that JICA will focus its efforts and help address the challenges of rapid urbanization due to rural-urban migration, youth unemployment issues, and climate change.
“The emphasis of our activities of cooperation may change to reflect Bhutan’s evolving needs. But our work will continue to be guided by the same principles of self-reliance and inclusiveness,” he said.
The cooperation between JICA and Bhutan started in 1964 with the arrival of late Dasho Nishioka to provide agricultural assistance. In the 50 years timeframe, more than 300 Japanese experts have helped Bhutan in the technical field.
As per the to statistics from OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, Japan is the largest bilateral ODA partner in Bhutan and has provided 5.7bn Yen as assistance grant aid to Bhutan.
One of JICA’s aims is to reduce poverty, and therefore, it provides support and expertise in agriculture and rural development as most Bhutanese are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
JICA has also started the Japan’s “food security for under privileged farmers’ scheme” which provides grants to assist small-holder farmers in increasing their production of staple food crops, like rice, wheat and maize.
To improve the standard of living in rural areas, Japan has also started JICA ODA loans which are being used to expand electricity distribution networks in rural parts of the country and to reach the target of electrifying 100% of households.
Through the innovative Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS), Japan brings in the latest advances in science to manage the serious challenges that confront Bhutan, such as the increased flooding due to the melting of Himalayan glaciers caused by climate change.
The former programme director of Agriculture Machinery Centre, Chetem Wangchen, also reflected on the memories of late Dasho Nishioka during the event.