Farming requires getting a few things right
Rabi C Dahal
With climate change, farmers are being dealt a tough hand, throwing off systems they have relied on for ages. In recent years, Bhutan has experienced rapid changes in average temperatures and precipitation patterns, as well as increased risks of climate hazards such as excessive rains, flash floods, windstorms, hailstorms, and droughts. This has caused massive losses and damage to farming households, especially since farmers are entirely dependent on the monsoons for irrigation. The late arrival of the monsoon can lead to drought, while excessive monsoon rains can cause landslides and floods. Adapting to these new challenges is a huge concern for Bhutan.
In addition to climate-related losses, damage to crops and livestock from wildlife causes major production losses. Bhutan’s biodiversity resources are of regional and global significance and the preservation of intact, forested landscapes through the protected areas network and associated biological corridors is needed to sustain these values. However, climate change impacts and other anthropogenic threats such as land conversion, forest fires, infrastructure development and unsustainable agriculture are placing increasing pressure on biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems in the country.
Hence there is a growing need for agricultural system that is climate resilient, high in productivity and less impact to the environment. So what actions can Bhutan take to get on a more climate-smart path? Climate Smart Agriculture could be one of the solutions. This technology can have the capability to reduced or eliminated addressing threats by improving the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as resilience and resource use efficiency in an agricultural production system.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is one such approach that increases productivity sustainably, enhances resilience, reduces green house gases, and enhances the achievement of national food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.
Bhutan in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC has highlighted several measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation to help reduce its future impacts while remaining carbon neutral. Smart Agriculture is a first step aimed at identifying a path towards the implementation of actions set out in NDC and other similar strategies.
About 70 percent of the Bhutanese population is made up of rural communities. About 80 percent of the Bhutanese population is involved in agriculture. Over 95 percent of the earning women in the country work in the agricultural sector, and contribute nearly 16.8 percent to the GDP. However, due to their limited knowledge, their efforts are often hindered. Most of the rural communities are unable to manage their natural resources sustainably to develop their livelihood.
Rural Development Training Centre (RDTC) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, with financial support from Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) is carrying out a project titled: Enhancing Community Capacity for Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood Improvement through eco-based farming. This project in order to break this trend, tried to build the capacity of rural farming communities to effectively and sustainably manage the natural resources, and adapt to impacts of climate change, accompanied by publishing the Climate Smart Agriculture Curriculum Framework. The target beneficiaries are farmers, especially women and youth, whose livelihood is dependent on farming or use of natural resources.
The project addresses concerns regarding the adverse impacts of climate change on rural livelihood security and poverty, and the effects of SMART agriculture. The long-term solution envisaged by the project is the farming communities in Bhutan effectively and sustainably manage the natural resources that are critical for their well being and livelihood, enhanced the capacity of farming communities on environment and climate smart agriculture, strengthened Institutional and Human Resource Capacity of RDTC
CSA curriculum consists of six independent modules namely fruit, mushroom, vegetable, dairy, pig, and poultry farming, which are offered as integrated commercial farming courses. The curriculum aims to provide the farmers with the knowledge and skills to practice climate smart techniques in order to mitigate and adapt to risks posed by the emerging climate change. It expects the farmers to be able to identify and select climate resilient breeds of animals and crop varieties that can thrive in different climatic conditions. While doing so, the farmers are expected to use environment friendly and locally available resources, which have minimal impacts on the environment.
Agriculture and climate change are interdependent. The effects of global warming on food supply are dismal, whilst world population is increasing. Consequently, it’s time to change the way agriculture affects the environment and vice versa. Thus, Climate smart agriculture is the most appropriate approach to solve the problem. However, there are several barriers that need to be overcome: insufficient institutional capacity for smart agriculture in Bhutan; limited capacity, awareness and support for building livelihood resilience; and inadequate knowledge on natural resource status, ecosystem services and resilient livelihood options.