Bhutan observes the world food day
This year, Bhutan joins the world in observing the World Food Day with the theme, “Breaking the cycle of rural poverty” last Friday. And while Bhutan has halved poverty from 23.4 per cent in 2007 to 12.04 per cent in 2012, the day brings with it a reminder of the way forward.
As a UN member state, Bhutan has agreed upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which Goal 2 looks to, “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
As highlighted by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the day, “Delivering on the promise of the 2030 Agenda will not be possible without rapid progress towards ending hunger and under nutrition.”
Nonetheless, the UN in Bhutan, through the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have already, embarked to assist the country to achieve zero hunger.
Earlier this month, His Majesty the King graced a field trip to the Research and Development Centre (RDC) in Yusipang to learn about Quinoa programme (Chenopodium quinoa Wild), through which a new crop has been introduced in the country for the first time.
In collaboration with FAO, the Department of Agriculture has introduced two varieties of crops which originates from Peru. Ten more high yielding varieties, that best suits Bhutanese conditions, will also be tested.
Chadho Tenzin, the Assistant Resident Representative FAO Bhutan said, “The crop is drought-tolerant and can be cultivated in soil without much water and has high nutritional value well suited for Bhutan.”
Starting this November, a Quinoa production trial will be conducted at mid and low altitudes and by next summer, the crop will also be tried in high altitude areas. There are also plans to distribute the seeds to farmers to cultivate and get acquainted with the crop varieties.
“Social protection programs on their own will not be enough to move people out of poverty. That’s why social protection programs should be linked to productivityenhancing measures that can sustainably improve farm incomes and nutrition”, said Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan, the Assistant Director general and Regional Representative of FAO
Through its training of teachers at the College of Natural Resources (CNR) for agriculture and nutrition coupled with the School Agriculture Programme (SAP), WFP Bhutan has already made significant achievements to break the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition.
Having started with in just six schools, today, there are 250 SAP member schools, close to half of 554 schools in the country. Additional 100 schools are expected to join the SAP in the current, 11th Five Year Plan with integrated agriculture activities such as vegetable and mushroom gardening, poultry for egg production and piggery for meat.
In her message for World Food Day, Ertharin Cousin, the Executive Di- rector of WFP pointed out that this is, “An important day for all agencies and partners working to achieve Zero Hunger.”
“We want to educate every child on agriculture and nutrition so that they are able to grow into healthy adults who will have healthy and well-nourished children to break the inter-generational cycle of hunger and poverty”, said Piet Vochten, the head of WFP in Bhutan getting at the heart of the message of this year’s World Food Day.
Currently, one-third of the SAP schools are being actively supported by WFP, out of more than 200 schools that receive food assistance. WFP has also trained 40 school teachers on the SAP and has supported the development of a new curriculum called Agri Food security (AgFs) in 40 schools across Bhutan.