Monday 27th of May 2019 05:45:27 AM

Climate Change Adaptation in Bhutan’s Renewable Natural Resources Sector

A success story that can be replicated across the country towards creating a national adaptation programme

Bhutan’s development is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower and forestry. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers increases risks of flooding and water scarcity in the dry season. Changing monsoon patterns are reflected in shorter rainy seasons with increasingly heavy rains and longer dry seasons. These changes are a threat to people’s livelihoods and the rural economy.

Considering the change in weather pattern, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in collaboration with Global Climate Change Alliance under the European Union (EU) support has initiated mainstreaming of climate change adaptation project into the 11th Five-Year Plan. The overall objective is to enhance resilience of Bhutan’s rural households against the effects of climate change. It is intended to ensure climate change readiness of the Renewable Natural Resources sector in Bhutan, by mainstreaming climate change into the sector and ensuring steps are taken towards increasingly addressing climate change adaptation at a multi-sectoral level.

The adaptation and mainstreaming project focuses on four Eastern Districts i.e. Lhuentse, Mongar, Pemagatshel and Zhemgang, targeting 44 Gewogs and 16,023 Households. In 2012, 3360 farmers were practicing stall-feeding while in 2015, 7582 farmers had adopted improved dairy husbandry. About 258.81 acres were brought under efficient irrigation for horticulture crops. A total of 38,394 covering 2424 Cluster Plots has been mapped for the National Forest Inventory.

Some key achievements to date include:

  1. Reduction in importation of LPG gas for rural households, increase in milk-production, reducing numbers of free-range cattle;
  2. Providing shade for improved breeds of cattle against heat stress, reducing methane gas production, and providing alternative livelihood to farmers.
  3. Promoting socially inclusive activities i.e. in reducing the labour and time that women traditionally spend on collecting firewood/fodder

As per a testimonial from a project beneficiary, a farmer in Zhemgang:

“Solar fencing has brought great relief to us as it has reduced our hardship and made our lives much easier. Over the years, the depredation of crop by wildlife like wild boar, rain deer, monkey, porcupine, deer and bear, has drastically decreased from the day it was installed. I observed that once the animal experiences an electric shock after touching the fence, they develop a fear and never attempt to touch again. Fencing not only keeps wild animals away but also refrains domestic stray cattle, dogs and children from damaging the crops. The fencing has proven effective from protecting domestic cattle from entering the fields during the night.

Last year, all the farmers harvested 100 percent of their paddy crops and we expect the same this season too, as it is our main crop generating cash income and staple food. The fencing has also solved some of our social problems. Now, we do not have to leave our kids all alone at home and spend sleepless nights in different locations in the fields, as was done earlier. Our school-going children have also benefited, as we are able to cater to their needs and have more family time. We are also able to devote our time to other income-generating activities which otherwise would have been sacrificed by attending the fields against wild animals. We utilize the fence area to grow vegetables and other winter cereal crops besides our main crop, rice, as it is protected throughout the year by the fence.

However, at times we face difficulty in coordinating timely repair and maintenance works due to lack of cooperation, other farmers being out of station for other works, and other personal and domestic reasons. Nevertheless, with passage of time our friends are realizing the importance of solar fencing and coming forward for maintenance works, and so far no major problems have been encountered.

Finally, I on behalf of all community members would like to thank our District Agriculture Officials and EU-GCCA project for making our lives easier.”

The programme continues to work towards mainstreaming climate change adaptation into the 11th Five-Year Plan of the RNR sector, in line with the government’s framework to mainstream environment, climate change and poverty concerns into the Plan. The programme is supporting the development of a Data Centre, which will provide an overview of the impacts of climate change on the RNR-sector based on a landscape as a complex system with multiple interacting sectors.  This should support the ope-rationalization of the overall RNR climate change policy and strategy in Bhutan.