World Bank grants US$ 8mn to in­crease agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity

Business Bhutan - - Business - Pema Sel­don from Thim­phu

Bhutan and World Bank signed a US$ 8mn Global Agri­cul­ture Food Se­cu­rity Pro­gram (GAFSP) grant agree­ment on Thurs­day that will help in­crease agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­hance ac­cess to mar­kets for farm­ers in se­lected gewogs across South­west Bhutan.

“The World Bank is ex­tremely pleased that through this grant we will be able to sup­port the Royal Gov­ern­ment of Bhutan’s strate­gic plan of im­prov­ing food se­cu­rity and agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tiv­ity,” said the World Bank’s Res­i­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Bhutan, Mr. Yoichiro Ishi­hara.

Bhutan has made im­pres­sive progress in poverty re­duc­tion and eco­nomic growth in the past decade driven by ac­cel­er­at­ing com­mer­cial­iza­tion of agri­cul­ture, rapid de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral in­fra­struc­ture, and re­cent hy­dro-elec­tric projects. De­spite this growth, the agri­cul­ture trade deficit has been in­creas­ing and farm­ers still lack ad­e­quate ac­cess to mar­kets.

Rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of the food and agri­cul­ture sec­tor to the na­tional econ­omy, the gov­ern­ment has as­signed sig­nif­i­cant pri­or­ity to agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment in its 11th Five Year Plan (2013-18).

Agri­cul­ture em­ploys the ma­jor­ity of the ru­ral poor, pro­vid­ing liveli­hoods to 58% of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion, and has the po­ten­tial to en­sure greater in­clu­sive­ness of growth, while re­duc­ing the coun­try’s food im­port bill and com­bat­ing mal­nu­tri­tion af­fect­ing chil­dren (less than five years of age) coun­try­wide.

This project will be im­ple­mented in five south-west­ern dzongkhags of Chukha, Da­gana, Haa, Samtse and Sarpang.

“The agri­cul­ture sec­tor is seen as one of the ‘five jewels’ of Bhutan and the lives of many Bhutanese de­pend on it. The se­cu­rity and agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tiv­ity project will sup­port the gov­ern­ment’s food goal of mov­ing from sub­sis­tence farm­ing to the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of agri­cul­ture through value chain de­vel­op­ment,” said Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Forests, Ly­onpo Yeshey Dorji.

He added that the new project will fur­ther en­hance Bhutan’s agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion which has steadily been in­creas­ing af­ter years of de­cline.

The GAFSP funded Food Se­cu­rity and Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­tiv­ity Project (FSAPP) will be im­ple­mented over five years (2017-22) and will sup­port Bhutan’s ef­forts to re­duce ru­ral poverty, food in­se­cu­rity, and mal­nu­tri­tion.

The project seeks to ad­dress mul­ti­ple prob­lems faced by farm­ers and ru­ral house­holds through a set of in­te­grated, con­sol­i­dated, and area-spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions.

Spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions in­clude strength­en­ing farm­ers’ groups and build­ing their tech­ni­cal and busi­ness ca­pac­i­ties; in­creas­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of food and high-value crops through water use ef­fi­ciency and im­proved agri-in­puts and tech­nolo­gies, and en­hanc­ing ac­cess to mar­kets for farm­ers through post-har­vest and mar­ket in­fra­struc­ture sup­port and link­ages to do­mes­tic and ex­port mar­kets.

FSAPP grant builds on past World Bank projects sup­port­ing the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment in Bhutan.

World Bank will be the su­per­vis­ing en­tity while the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) will pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for the project.

(left to right) Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nam­gay Dorji, Ly­onpo Yeshey Dorji of MoAF and Mr. Yoichiro Ishi­hara, the World Bank’s Res­i­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Bhutan

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