6 May, Thimphu: The Department of Agriculture (DoA) kick started the Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture program in Bebena, Thimphu by handing over 6.58 acres of land to 10 groups including 60 beneficiaries.
According to the department, the program is being initiated as a part of the preparedness plan to ensure food security in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is aimed to produce and supply vegetables for urban markets and provide alternative employment and income generating venture to laid-off employees.
The beneficiaries are mostly tourist guides and tour operators identified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). Since the entry of tourists has been banned in the country to prevent COVID-19, tourism is the most affected sector. The Ministry is thus offering the priority to the tourism employees.
The Department has helped the beneficiaries in terms of land development, fencing, seedlings and other technical aspects. The total land is divided into 10 plots and each plot with more than 50 decimal of areas is provided to each group with members ranging from 5 above. The land at Bebena belonging to Dratshang Lhentshog is on free lease to ensure the best productive use of fallow lands.
Gracing the launch, the Director General for TCB shared amid the COVID-19 situation, agriculture farming is a good opportunity for beneficiaries that need to be taken up seriously. He urged them to work hard and make the program a big success.
The Director for DoA, Kinlay Tshering said that if the program is successful in Thimphu, it will be introduced in other 19 Dzongkhags as well. “This is the start, we have miles to go,” she said. She shared that the program will help overcome the challenges such as unemployment and food and nutrition securities, both at a household and the national levels.
On the day, the group leaders were demonstrated about the vegetable cultivation practices such as seedling transplanting, irrigation, farmyard manure and greenhouse. As a part of the trial cultivation, a JICA expert also demonstrated how to cultivate a Japanese sweet potato that is rich in nutrition.
The program funded by FAO is encouraging the cultivation of vegetables such as chilli, tomato and carrot among others. People involved in the program are advised to be committed growers for success and select the crops wisely following the technical guidance. Besides, they have been informed that no infrastructure will be allowed to build in the fields.
According to the Chief Agriculture Officer, Namgay Thinley, three additional sites identified are under process of development at Begana, Chantagang and Kushuchen in Kawang gewog, Thimphu. He added that the areas will be divided into 11 plots and handed over to 11 groups including 79 laid-off employees.
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