NC says Agriculture has high potential to generate employment

Among the recommendations on employment that the social and cultural affairs sector presented to the house, the members of National Council debated about the agricultural sector in creating employment and its promotion.

According to the Labour Force Survey of 2014, 56% of the total population depends on agriculture for their livelihood.

It contributes approximately 14% to the overall Gross Domestic Product and 4.3% of the agriculture products are exported.

Although agriculture is considered a rural phenomenon, it is seen as a potential employment-generating sector and the scope of scaling up farming for commercial purposes was strongly advocated in the light of promoting food security and self sufficiency.

Samtse NC Sangay Khandu said, “We talk much about agriculture but we could not promote agriculture, as there is very less budget in the five year plans.”

Adding to the point MP Nima Gyeltshen said government needs to restrict the import of the agricultural products from outside and instead market our own products.

Currently there are 259 farmers groups and 39 cooperatives which are formally registered with the Department of Agriculture Marketing and Cooperatives.

However due to the lack of adequate support in monitoring and marketing from the concerned agencies, it has been observed that most of the registered cooperatives fail in achieving their target especially at production and marketing and consequently the youths are not encouraged to take up agriculture as a means for their employment.

Zhemgang NC Pema Drakpa said most of the job seekers prefer government jobs over private ones and white color jobs over blue color job.

He also pointed out that while those who take up vocational and hospitality jobs are placed under Direct Employment Scheme, the government does not look at those youths who stay back in the villages to take up agriculture farming and so there is a need to support such people.

Access to credit facilities was seen as a complex procedure with negligible amount projected for agriculture loans.

Dagana National Councilor, Sonam Dorji said one of the reasons why youths do not take up agriculture farming is due the lack of government support, no irrigation channel, lack of man force and proper feeder roads.

As per the annual report of the Royal Monetary Authority 2014, only 2% of commercial banks loan was projected for agriculture.

Similarly the Bhutan Development Bank Limited loans for agriculture constitutes only 16% of the total loan portfolio, out of which 85% are less than Nu. 100,000. The total budget outlay for agriculture was also seen to be decreasing with only 6.4% in the 11th Five Year Plan.

Mongar NC, Sonam Wangchuk said in order to encourage youths to take up agriculture farming as their profession the government needs to look at human-wildlife conflict, provide financial grants and provide agricultural materials and technologies at cheaper rate.

In order to avail loans from a financial institution, a rural individual has to mortgage land but then the value of the rural land so low that the credit obtained in mortgaging is not worth applying for.

Such hindrances have discouraged people from forming agriculture groups and taking farming for a better livelihood.

Trongsa NC, Tharchen said if youths are interested in carrying out agriculture farming, the Dzongkhag and Gewog officials must provide necessary support in land leasing targeting mass production for export.

The Social and Cultural Affairs Committee Chairman, Bumthang NC Nima said there is a need for including agriculture farming syllabus from the pre-primary school, rather than studying it after reaching middle and higher secondary school, so that youths can gain ample knowledge and take keen interest in carrying out a agriculture profession.

National Council Chairperson, Sonam Kinga said people who think that agriculture can create more employment are very less. He said it is first time that the house discussed about agriculture seeing its prospect in creating employment.

The report said that the agriculture sector has a very high potential of creating employment opportunities, if all those drawbacks are properly monitored and better plans, policies and programmes are efficiently put in the right place.

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