History of agricultural extension in Bhutan by malj


									Communication and Extension (C&E)

History of agricultural extension in Bhutan

1.    Background

The first Five-Year Plan which was launched in 1961 set Bhutan on the path to
planned national development. With an outlay of Nu. 1747 lakhs, the Plan aimed
at creating in the country basic infrastructure facilities like roads, power,
communication system, transport, agriculture and animal husbandry.
        It was during 1961 at the beginning of the first Five-Year Plan that the
Department of Agriculture was established which started a number of model
agricultural farms, seed multiplication farms, agricultural research stations and
development of extension work. Efforts were made to increase the area under
fruit and vegetable cultivation.
        A Department of Animal Husbandry was also set up and many livestock
and sheep breeding farms were established in different parts of the country.
        The first Forest Department initiated many measures for conserving forest
wealth and the exploitation of forest products.

2.    Past Extension Policy

In the initial plan periods, there was no clear statement on extension objectives
pursued by the Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Although,
extension services were recognised to be further strengthened, there was no
clear indication as to how it could have been done. A review of extension
practice showed that the policy environment within which extension has
developed had a number of shifts from centralisation to decentralisation to area
        It has also been difficult to assess the resources, both financial and
human that have been invested in extension.
        The past extension activities of Bhutan have largely been engaged in the
supply of material inputs like fertilisers, chemicals, etc, to a chosen target.

3.    Extension an important component

Bhutan has a limited area of land for cultivation with little scope for further
expansion. Under the circumstances, intensification of the existing cultivated
areas is the only option to increase production to meet the food requirement of
its ever increasing population. Therefore, the importance of agricultural extension
was recognised since the early plan periods so as to educate our farmers in the
better management of their farms through the extension service and ultimately
help increase agricultural production.

4.    Agricultural Extension since the first two Five-Year Plans (1961-1971)

During this decade, attempts were made to disseminate what were seen as
improved practices to farmers. About 15 extension centres were established for
the production of improved seeds and planting materials for distribution. Nine
demonstration cum seed multiplication farms were set up besides a model
orchard. Three agricultural research centres were set up to support the
development activities shouldered by the extension workers at the field level
       In the second Five-Year Plan, the Department of Agriculture laid special
emphasis in increasing food production, regional specialisation of crops,
improved seeds, implements, fertiliser, etc. Steps were also taken to improve
horticulture and the production of cash crops like apples, oranges, potato and
       In the Animal Husbandry Department, further progress was maintained in
the improvement of cattle and livestock. A number of livestock breeding farms
were set up at different places. It was also during this time that a number of
Bhutanese students were trained as veterinary assistants.

5.    Third Five Year plan (1971 – 1976)

Based on the developments that took place during the first two Plan Periods, a
countrywide agricultural development programme was initiated. Continued
emphasise was laid on increasing agricultural production through regional
specialisation and adoption on intensive and improved methods of cultivation,
use of high yielding varieties, etc. Special emphasise was also laid on the
development of horticulture during this Plan period.
       At this point of time, extension was mainly held responsible for the
supply of seeds, fertilisers and farm machinery to farmers.

6.    Fourth Five-Year Plan (1976-1981)

Based on the practical experiences gained through the first three Plans, more
clear policy objectives were set for the 4th Plan including the:

      -      attainment of food self sufficiency
      -      increase production on horticulture produce
      -      expansion of cash crop cultivation to increase income

To achieve these objectives, extension activities were expanded to include
the following elements:

*     the supply of fertilisers
*     provision of plant protection services
*     supply of fruit plants
*     supply of improved seeds

*      development of local manure
*      extension of improved method of agricultural practice
*      farm mechanisation
*      high altitude agricultural development

7.     Fifth Five-Year Plan (1981 – 1987)

By the beginning of the 1980s, the whole country was covered by the extension
network. Extension management was decentralised to the dzongkhags including
the farms and regional centres. Nearly all geogs were staffed with a skilled field
man who is equivalent to the current extension agents. The District Agricultural
Officers (DAO) were also appointed in the dzongkhags under the direct
commands of the Dzongdag. New technologies were being imported and
adapted to our situations by the research centres. Potatoes were promoted as
cash crops especially in the eastern dzongkhags.

8.     Sixth Five-Year Plan (1987 – 1992)

As a result of the decentralisation and the distribution of decision making power
on agricultural developmental programmes during the early Plan period, the
Dzongkhags by now felt that they could not cope up with too many
responsibilities. Therefore, some of the farms were taken back by the central
programmes. Several externally funded area development projects were taken
up centrally both in agriculture and animal husbandry to provide new
technologies and practices in specific areas. The Area development programme
approach helped farmers to identify constraints and new practices.
        It was during this Plan period that the delivery of inputs was
privatised and distribution of credits taken out from the extension agents’
        It was then that a sense of accountability and responsibility was inculcated
among farmers with the privatisation of input supply.
        However, even at this stage, the preparation of the content of extension
programme still remained more or less the same – focus on sale of seeds and
distribution of improved animal breeds to farmers.

9.     Seventh Five-Year Plan (1992-1997)

A major institutional change occurred with the introduction of an integrated
approach to agricultural development through the Renewable Natural Resources
(RNR) concept of the Ministry of Agriculture.
       As a result of the integrated RNR approach, a change in the
organisational structure within MOA took place where the three departments of
agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry were merged within the MOA given
the interdependent nature of activities of these three technical departments at
the farm level. This reorganisation was defined through the respective functions

of the three departments instead of their disciplines as it was previously
        The decentralisation of extension programmes was further extended to
the geogs during this period.
        Another major event that took place at this time was the establishment of
the Natural Resources Training Institute (NRTI). A National Extension Policy
(NEP) for the RNR sector was also developed during this Plan period.

10.   Eighth Five-Year Plan (1997 – 2002)

Today, the Eighth Plan is seeing the MOA consolidating its newly reorganised
set up. The four RNR research centres became fully operational. Extension
system felt the benefits of NRTI graduates while the RNR Research centres
became more sensitive to the extension needs. The joint programme planning
through RNR regional planning became the basis for the 8th Five-Year Plan and
designing annual RNR plan programmes. The National Extension Policy
developed in the Seventh Plan was being implemented through the RNR
Extension Support Project based at the Department of Research and
Development Services (DRDS).
       More and more qualified extension staff became visible especially in the
dzongkhags and in some dzongkhags there were also the appointment of
dzongkhag RNR coordinators.

11.   Overall impact of past extension activities

As a result of having introduced and implemented extension programmes in
Bhutan, it was found out from farmers that:
*      changes in agricultural practices are the rule rather than the exception
*      extension service is the main source of information for farmers
*      as they became more aware of extension programme, the farmers found
themselves sharing more information among themselves or what we understand
as ‘farmer to farmer extension’ was taking place in rural areas
*      farmers’ desire for change is often determined by using higher yielding
crop varieties. Their desire to produce more was further being encouraged as a
result of information on new agricultural technologies and new agricultural
practices readily being made available through the extension service


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