Tens of thousands of poor farmers and households headed by women living in the most isolated villages of the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will benefit from a new $20-million agricultural development programme supported by the United Nations.
“This programme builds on 20 years of experience in rural poverty reduction in Eastern Bhutan,” UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) country programme manager Ya Tian said.
The $19.7-million programme will be financed in part by a $13.9-million loan and $100,000 grant from IFAD, the UN agency entrusted with fighting rural poverty. An additional $1.3 million grant will be provided by the Netherlands Development Organization, and the Government of Bhutan will contribute $3.1 million.
The loan agreement was signed at IFAD headquarters in Rome yesterday by the agency’s President, Lennart Båge, and Bhutan’s Ambassador to the UN, Sonam T. Rabgye.
The project will improve the livelihoods of 22,000 rural families in Lhuentshe, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Samdrup-Jongkhar, Trashigang and Trashi Yangste, six of the poorest and most food insecure districts in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The eastern districts are areas of rugged terrain with high mountain ranges separated by deep valleys. For those living in these isolated villages, access to the outside world is difficult.
It will increase productivity and incomes through improved road connections and agricultural infrastructure as well as providing access to rural financial services, as well as strengthen local organizational capacity and institutions so that village leaders and community members can actively participate in the development process.
“The full integration of the programme into the local development plan will ensure the programme’s sustainability and enable the rural poor to overcome their poverty,” Ya Tian said.
With this loan IFAD will have financed six projects in Bhutan for a total of $40 million.