…𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒂𝒘𝒂𝒓𝒅 𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒖𝒅𝒔 𝑩𝒉𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒏’𝒔 𝑽𝒆𝒈-𝒃𝒓𝒆𝒆𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒋𝒆𝒄𝒕, 𝒄𝒖𝒓𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒍𝒚 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒘𝒂𝒚 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑵𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝑪𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒆 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝑶𝒓𝒈𝒂𝒏𝒊𝒄 𝑨𝒈𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆, 𝑫𝒆𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝑨𝒈𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆 (𝑫𝒐𝑨).
In a significant acknowledgment of Bhutan’s strides in agriculture and rural development, the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation and Initiatives (AFACI) conferred the Most Outstanding Country Award for 2023 upon the nation on December 26, 2023. The Rural Development Administration (RDA) in South Korea, under AFACI, recognized Bhutan’s exceptional efforts in the field of science and technology in agriculture.
Laxmi Thapa, Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer at the National Centre for Organic Agriculture, expressed the country’s pride in receiving the award. She highlighted the achievement as a testament to Bhutan’s active cooperation and valuable accomplishments in the project on vegetable variety development and breeding.
She stated, “We feel very proud and motivated to receive this award in recognition of our active cooperation and valuable accomplishments of the project on vegetable variety development and vegetable breeding in Bhutan and Asia for 2023.”
The award specifically applauds Bhutan’s Veg-breeding project, currently underway at the National Centre for Organic Agriculture, Department of Agriculture (DoA). AFACI, RDA is funding the project with a grant of USD 180,000 over a three-year period, from December 2022 to December 2025.
She elaborated on the project’s objectives, emphasizing the development of suitable chili varieties with desirable traits such as resistance to stress, high yield, and good shelf life. The initiative aims to contribute to sustainable vegetable production, aligning with Bhutan’s self-sufficiency goals and income generation for farmers. “Innovative approaches, particularly successful ones supported by the World Vegetable Centre, have led to the screening and research of 34 chili and 30 tomato varieties in Bhutan,” she added.
Three tomato varieties- AVTO 1954 (Yusi Lambenda 1), AVTO1702 (Yusi Lambenda 2), and AVTO 1907 (Yusi Lambenda 3) have been released for farmers in temperate regions. Additionally, two tomato varieties (AVTO 0301 and AVTO 1914) and one chili variety (AVPP 1337) have been identified for subtropical locations.
She highlighted, “These varieties will not only boost rural household income by cultivating the best high-yielding, climate-resilient varieties but also enhance organic commercial production.”
The project has initiated further breeding of tomatoes and chilies through hybridization, with the objective of producing hybrid varieties for income generation through participatory breeding and reduction in the import of hybrid seeds.
With the support of AFACI project funds, Bhutan has facilitated the establishment of facilities such as mega greenhouses and polyhouses to increase vegetable production, aiming for vegetable self-sufficiency in the country. Training programs for farmers and researchers have been conducted to enhance their capacity in vegetable production and quality seed production.
She further stated that diseases, particularly virus-related, have been identified during the project period. In collaboration with the World Vegetable Centre and AFACI, researchers will work on the development of virus-resistant varieties for the Asian region in the next two years of the project.
She highlighted the ongoing commitment to the evaluation of new entries of tomato and chili varieties under replicated trials. She emphasized the continued selection of elite varieties with superior quality that are acceptable to Bhutan, coupled with the ongoing development of breeding facilities. She said, “Our aim is to contribute to the country’s food security by developing varieties that are suitable, high-yielding, climate-resilient, and sustainable. This will, in turn, contribute to uplifting farmers and rural income.”
Sharing her personal perspective on enhancing rural development, she emphasized the importance of improving the accessibility of quality seeds and seedlings to rural farmers. She stressed that vegetable farmers should have easier access to inputs, including better seeds, seedlings, plant protection products, plastic transparent sheets, mulching plastics, and bio inputs.
She said, “If high-quality seeds, seedlings, plant protection products, and other agricultural inputs are made available to farmers, they are willing to pay a premium for them. To boost output, farmers require high-quality produce.”
She pointed out that these inputs should be simple to obtain, reasonably priced, timely, and come with suitable usage instructions. Thapa stressed the significance of making these resources readily available to farmers during the growing season when they are engrossed in fieldwork. “During the growing season, when farmers are incredibly busy with field work, finding inputs nearby and at the proper time is crucial,” she added.