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Subsistence farming is an integral part of the Bhutanese economy, with 69 % of the total population of about 700,000 live in rural areas. The farming environment is challenging due to uneven mountainous terrain dominated by rain-fed farming. Taking on from the last one decade, the extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity that could negatively impact agriculture productions and the vulnerable farming communities. The Royal Government of Bhutan has identified climate smart sustainable management and utilization of natural resources as one its priority goals.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) focuses on adapting strategies for sustainable agriculture development. The most common impacts of climate change to agriculture in Bhutan is predicted to be water insufficiency both in terms of rain and irrigation water. Water scarcity will unfavourably affect crop production due to loss of soil fertility by soil erosion, outbreak of pests-diseases and increased damages to crops by wildlife. The water accessibility vis-a-vis other weather dynamics have serious consequences to overall agriculture value chain system.
Our CSA project provides services to increase agriculture productivity and enhance income by building resilience through adaptations to climate change. The main objective of the project is to create awareness and build capacities of stakeholders and the farming communities through training and promotional demonstrations using appropriate vulnerability assessments and planning tools. The tools are used to assess the threats and potentials of climate change on the farms and to the farming communities. The CSA identifies and adapts to suitable farming options and approaches through mainstreaming CSA research and development besides exploring local perceptions of alternative livelihoods.
The CSA project will benefit over 1800 farmers directly in 14 pilot sites under six districts. Upon findings of the assessments, the activities on water management, water harvesting & storage, soil moisture conservation, human-wildlife conflict management, crop protection, crop diversification and promotion of climate resilient crops through formation of Water Users Committees (WUCs) and Climate-smart Farmers Association (CsFA).
Through the vulnerability assessment and planning, the project enhances farmer’s awareness and understanding about the issues of climate change on agriculture and farming. The activities are catered to the Bhutanese farmers (youths, women and men), who rely on agriculture farming on a daily basis. We share information, knowledge, skills and participation of stakeholders to align agriculture farming in a smarter way for sustained rural livelihood. The focus is to investigate and address the impact of climate change to food security and income of the small holder farmers, and suggest appropriate adaptations strategies to climate change through development of CSA source book and other reference materials.
The CSA service is at the fore-front in planning activities jointly with the Department of Agriculture and its sister agencies including research centres at the national level, and with subsistence farmers, cooperatives, CsFA, WUCs through the extension service networks of the districts and local governments at field level.
The first of its kind in Bhutan when launched in 2013, the project serves as a building block to a Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) for small holder women, men and youths farmers. The 14 pilot sites are expected to set the tone for making farming a viable enterprise under climate change through knowledge exchange and implementing the CSA approach in the fields.