10,000 households to benefit from food security project

Of which 30% will be women

10,000 households to benefit from food security project
World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan and agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji at the food security and agriculture productivity project launch

A food security and agriculture productivity project (FSAPP), which was launched on Thursday, aims to increase agricultural productivity and enhance access to markets for over 10,000 households in five Dzongkhags.

The five-year project which extends from 2017 to 2022 is worth US$ 9.35mn and will be focusing on four gewogs from Haa and five gewogs each from Chukha, Dagana, Haa, Samtse and Sarpang.

The project will also improve homegrown school feeding programs for 3,000 school children in 16 schools located in 11 project gewogs by facilitating productive linkages among producers groups and the schools.

According to the Project Director, Jigme Dorji, the main reasons for selecting these five project Dzongkhags were because of high potential for commercialization of certain high-value crops like citrus, cardamom, and vegetables. Another reason is that infrastructure investments have already gone into these Dzongkhags during the earlier and ongoing projects by the World Banks.

“The five project Dzongkhags have also seen high incidences of poverty, malnutrition, low agriculture productivity and poor access to markets,” said Jigme Dorji.

The project once completed is expected to increase the productivity of targeted crops – rice, vegetables, potatoes, cardamom, ginger, and citrus- by 20% in the projected areas.  The project also aims at increasing both the volume and value of the produce by 20%.

The minister for agriculture and forests, Yeshey Dorji, said: “The project interventions will take gender into consideration and ensure equal participation in project activities, representation in farmer groups and proactive involvement in decision-making by women.”

“We have to ensure 30% of the beneficiaries are women,” said Jigme Dorji.

World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, Qimiao Fan, said that this project will promote climate-smart interventions and increase the productivity of selected target crops.

“FSAPP will strengthen farmers and producers’ groups and it will also promote value chains of high-value nutrient-rich crops and link them to domestic and export markets,” he said.

For the first time, farmers are represented at the highest decision-making body. At the policy level, 19 members consisting of five Dzongdas from five Dzongkhags and five farmers, among other are representatives in the project steering committee.

According to a press release from the World Bank, the project is designed to reduce the country’s reliance on food imports and help combat malnutrition in children while improving agricultural productivity, which employs 60% of Bhutanese.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji also said the project presents an opportunity to significantly reduce pockets of extreme poverty in Bhutan and build the capacity of smallholder farmers to move from subsistence farming to commercial market-driven agriculture.

“The agriculture ministry is proud to say that Bhutan today is self-sufficient in egg and vegetable availability for nine months a year, rice by 56% and maize by almost 100%,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji.

Of the total US$ 9.35mn, 85.5% of the project cost which amounts to US$ 8mn is a grant from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program while the government will bear the salaries of the staff (US$ 1.12mn) under the project. The remaining US$ 0.23mn (2.5%) is to be collected from the beneficiaries.

A total of US$ 5.21mn will be allocated to enhance farmer productivity by providing gender friendly farm machinery, electric fencing, greenhouses, planting materials, improved farm and climate technology which will be on cost-sharing basis.

A budget of US$ 2mn will be used for development of four irrigation facilities on 1346.33 acres of land; two each in Sarpang and Samtse.

Apart from this, a total budget of US$ 1.08mn and US$ 1mn will be allocated to strengthen farmers and producer groups and nutrition capacity building and also to enhance market access.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu