The Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the country can grow all the vegetables it needs to become self-sufficient, even if just 25 percent of the 64,000 acres of fallow land are revived.
“If we manage to revive all this 64,000 acres of fallow land, we will have self sufficiency and we will have enough to export also. If we go through the statistic of 2018 and 2019, we are almost there to accomplish self-sufficiency. Already we have achieved 69 percent of it, and if we really work together, it should not be taking more than two years to accomplish self-sufficiency,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Lyonpo said that with the rural-urban migration, the land became fallow and there is no one to work and take care of the land in the dzongkhags.
“Our forefathers have been cultivating mustards, groundnuts to generate oil, and only thing is we have done is left the land fallow and not worked. We need to set the effort to work and then we can achieve the goal of self-sufficiency,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said we are dependent on rice import, as people do not know rice is actually not good for health.
He said, “If people are made aware of rice substitution for better health then we have the potential to produce all those cereals which can substitute rice. Our land has the potential to produce different varieties of cereals and all we need is to work and put in effort.”
Lyonpo also said that the government cannot force but only encourage the landowners to work their lands.
“We can only request the landowners to provide us with the land for cultivation, and if the landowners agree then we can advertise this for the interested people to come in and work. Even if the landowners provide land, we cannot force the people to work,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo added that the Department of Agriculture (DoA) started the urban and peri-urban agriculture program in the country.
‘The main objectives of the program are to boost production and supply vegetables to urban markets and provide alternative employment and income generating venture to laid off employees. Dratshang has allowed us to do vegetable farming in their land at Babena, Thimphu and DoA invited the interested people to start vegetable gardening,” Lyonpo added.
He also added that DoA and the Tourism Council of Bhutan are finding people who want to take up commercial farming.
Agriculture Minister said, “There are 64,000 acres fallow lands in the country and the government is discussing with the local leaders in all the dzongkhags. We will find the landowners, and if they are interested, they can use those lands for farming and the government will help them with the resources. They can also avail loan from the CSI bank with lower interest rate for the agriculture farming.”
Pemagatshel has the highest dry fallow land of 8,395 acres and Samtse has the highest wet fallow land of 1,261 acres.