Strengthening commercial farming to address impacts of COVID-19

June 26, 2020

A woman in Wangdue Phodrang district prepares for paddy transplantation

Thimphu, June 24, 2020: The Gross National Happiness Commission and UNDP Bhutan signed the project “Support to Commercial Farming in Paro District: A Response to COVID-19” today in Thimphu. The project is part of UNDP’s overall support to the national COVID-19 Response.

Focused on large scale vegetable production, the project will be implemented by the Department of Agriculture. It will support 18 groups of people working in the tourism sector who lost their jobs and income after the coronavirus pandemic brought the country’s tourism to a halt.

The Royal Government’s recent Rapid Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 on Bhutan’s Tourism Sector supported by UNDP and other UN agencies showed that COVID-19 has had grave impact on the lives of many working in the tourism sector and increased their vulnerability across many dimensions.

Other beneficiaries of the project include 17 farmers’ groups and co-operatives and 445 individual farmers of 10 gewogs in Paro district.

Various vegetables will be grown on a land covering a total of 3,439 acres in the district. The effort aims to produce around 557 metric tons of vegetables this year. This will take the district’s annual total vegetable production to 11,210.49 metric tons.

From right to left: GNHC Secretary Thinley Namgyel, UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota and Director for Department of Agriuclture, Kinlay Tshering at the signing of the project

“This is a good opportunity for us to protect the livelihood of the laid off workforce from the tourism sectors including rural farmers through the implementation of the early recovery activities from the contingency plan,” said GNHC. 

 “While the world is making progress towards medical solutions, the scars from the socio-economic impact have been deep and will remain for the coming generation. Our partnership responds directly to the country’s journey towards recovery and beyond recovery and supports Bhutan’s food production and self-sufficiency,” UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota said.

“We are focusing on Paro as this is where our past, ongoing and planned activities will complement this project, create a circular economy and ensure a holistic approach to experimenting use of technology.”

The long-term objective is to help the country’s efforts to strengthen food self-sufficiency and nutrition security during the rapidly evolving and uncertain times like these. The pandemic poses a threat to food security and nutrition and could have a long-term impact as the mitigation measures and the emerging global recession could disrupt food systems with dire consequences.