Bhutan is a small, predominately mountainous country landlocked between China and India. It has a population of nearly 760,000 people— about 70 percent of whom live in rural areas. The agricultural sector is central to the Bhutanese economy. Over 65 percent of the population is involved in agriculture and it accounts for over 20 percent of Bhutan’s GDP. Thus, sustainable agriculture in Bhutan is a necessary future development.
The Effects of Climate Change
Most of Bhutan’s rural population depends on subsistence farming. However, climate change is altering ecosystems in ways that have far-reaching, adverse consequences for health and the economy. For example, high-mountain environments, such as that of Bhutan, are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate. This is in part due to the rapid rate of temperature changes which increases with elevation.
The projected effects of climate change in Bhutan include increasingly frequent floods and landslides, receding glaciers and other natural hazards — which all impose barriers to sustainable agriculture development.
Sustainable Agriculture in Bhutan
Sustainable agriculture in Bhutan is an important factor for socioeconomic development and growth. In addition to climate-related hazards, challenges to productive and sustainable agriculture in Bhutan include water scarcity, fragmented landholding, changing land use, negative human-wildlife interactions, inadequate irrigation and poor infrastructural development.
In 2017, the Government of Bhutan developed the ‘Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agricultural Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan’ project. Its objectives are to strengthen biological corridors, build resilience for adaption to climate change and support sustainable agriculture in Bhutan by 2023.
Climate change poses fundamental threats to people’s livelihoods in Bhutan with its potential to increase food insecurity and rural poverty. Despite substantial economic growth in recent years, rates of food insecurity and malnutrition remain high. Thirty-three percent of the Bhutanese population suffers from food insecurity. Furthermore, over 33 percent of Bhutanese children have stunted growth.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals’ target of increasing the agricultural productivity by 2030 is also driving the government’s efforts in the agricultural sector.
Although it will be difficult for Bhutan to reach this target due to uneven and mountainous terrain, the country is committed to alleviating poverty and food insecurity through sustainable agriculture development.
– Gabrielle Doran