Sonam Gongphel on track claims Agriculture minister but water agency and crop insurance yet to be established as 120 days draws closer

According to the minister of agriculture, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjore, the government has fulfilled its pledge on Sonam Gongphel—which was one of the 25 pledges in 120 days made during the campaign period. The agriculture minister informed that the ministry started working and has fulfilled the pledge within four months from the time the government took over.

The government took over on November 7, 2018 and roughly has four months from then to complete 120 days which is till the first week of March 2019.

The government pledged to initiate the Sonam Gongphel Project where the government will buy the farmer’s produce. The minister said that that it has been initiated.

He said, “When farmers were not able to export cardamom due to issues related to Good and Services Tax (GST), the government proposed buying farmers’ produces. The government was ready to buy but export routes were re-opened and farmers chose to export their produce.”

“The farmers, however, after realizing that the government’s buy back price of Nu 550 is higher than the price they can fetch from exports, rather chose to sell their produce to government again. In such cases, the government has to study whether there is genuine need for buy-back interventions”, Lyonpo said.

He said, “The government has initiated the establishment or institution of independent water agency to address the issues related to water but before that the government has already identified eight major irrigation schemes, 26 large scale irrigation schemes and 70 small scale irrigation schemes which will be taken up by the Local Government.”

“In order to address issues related to water, the government declared that it will review and amend the Water Act of Bhutan. The review of Water Act is already underway and the government is mobilizing the financial resources needed for the establishment of water agency,” Lyonpo said.

The pledge, however, says that DNT will ‘establish’ a dedicated water agency with a plan of action to ensure water both drinking and irrigation for all by 2021. It does not say that will start its initiation process.  Regarding government’s pledge on insurance schemes for farmers, the agriculture minister said, “The ministry has initiated the establishment of insurance schemes and endowment fund for farmers to protect their crops.”

Lyonpo said, “For the establishment of insurance scheme and endowment fund, we have already discussed with our development partners like European Union (EU) and they have promised us that they will provide us with the necessary aid.”

Here too the pledge is to, ‘Set up insurance schemes for farmers to protect their crops,’ and it does does not talk about starting its initiation.

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