Bhutanese farming environment spreads from the warm subtropical to the cool alpine climatic zones and engages more than 69% of the total population. Although the environment is conducive to growing crops round the year, production is low to meet the requirements of the increasing population. The arable land is around 8% of the total geographic area out of which 18% is irrigated and more than 70% is under rain fed or dry land cultivation. Rice and maize are prominent cereal crops while important cash crops include potato, vegetables, citrus, and apple. The yields of these crops are low and there is potential to improve through the introduction of good agronomic practices and high yielding varieties. The national average yield of paddy (preferred stable food) is about 2.3 t/ha, and annually about 45,000 tons of rice are imported to meet the national rice requirement. There is also a growing pressure to change arable land, particularly good paddy land into other land uses. Coping with crop damages by wild life, frequent droughts, pests and diseases outbreaks, and rise in farm labor cost are some of the main challenges in meeting our food demands.
One of the objectives of the 10th Plan (2008 to 2013) is to reduce poverty from 23% to 15 % of the population by the end of the plan period. Farming has an important role to play in meeting this objective since more than 90% of the population under poverty lives in the rural areas.
There are 13 programs identified for the Department of Agriculture in the plan period with a capital budget provision of Nu. 1318.586 m. These programs are aimed to ensure food security and increase income through improved management of arable, horticulture crops and medicinal plants. Access to markets, farm inputs, construction of farm roads and selection of improved technologies are some of the means prioritized.
Policy support & coordination
DoA is one of the biggest departments under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests with total staff strength of more than 750 personnel.. The department reaches out to clients through a network of Extension, Research and Central program offices established at strategic locations throughout the country, taking services closer to the clients. At the policy and coordination, the DoA HQ comprise of Agriculture, Horticulture and Engineering Divisions including Extension Information System.
The Department of Agriculture has deployed 20 Dzongkhag Agriculture Officers (DAO), 20 Assistant Dzongkhag Officers (ADAO), and 205 Extension Officers in the 20 Dzongkhag (Districts). There is more than 300 agriculture staff in these Dzongkhags to support the farming communities to increase food production and manage local resources. These agriculture officers technically work with DoA, the Research Centres and Central Programs to provide assistances to address the agriculture production challenges of the local farming communities.
Research & Development Services
The Department of Agriculture took administrative and technical responsibilities of the Research and Development Centres (RDC) Wengkhar in the east, Bajo in the west central, Bhur in the south and RDC Yusipang (arable and horticulture programs) in the west. These RDCs support the farming communities’ and addresses their specific needs. Each centre continues to have both its national as well as regional research mandates. The RDCs, provide technical support to the research and extension needs of the centers.
There are five central programs under DOA namely Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC), National Post Harvest Centre (NHPC), and National Seed Centre (NSC) based in Paro; and National Soil Services Centre (NSSC) and National Plant Protection Centre (NPPC) based in Thimphu. The National Mushroom Centre (NMC) based in Yusipang now reports directly to the Horticulture Division of DOA. Similarly, the Central Machinery Unit (CMU) based in Bumthang that leads farm road construction, reports directly to the Engineering Division of DoA. These Centres provide extension and research services in consultation with RDCs and Dzongkhag extension system. There is currently 265 agriculture staff in these centers.