You are here: RAOnline Home > Bhutan > Overview > Information > Farm labour Search
Bhutan - Economy
Bhutan's Economy
Bhutan's migration problem
Migration from the villages
Bhutan Information
Tourist Destinations in Bhutan
Video Bhutan Videos
previous pageend
Bhutan's Migration Problem Declining farm labour
Bhutan has 7,63,156 acres (LUPP - 1995) or 7.7 percent of the total land area under cultivation. The problem - there are simply not enough hands to keep fields ploughing and crops growing in this frugal parcel of cultivable land.
A recent survey of the five west and central dzongkhags - Gasa, Punakha, Wangdue, Tsirang, and Dagana - reveals that there is a marked decline in the availability of farm labour. Agriculturists describe this decline as a serious "drawback" to agricultural development.

According to the report, there is a glaring "mismatch between household labour availability and requirement".

For example the mean total residenthousehold members is 5.8 of which the mean total full time labour is 3. On the other hand, the mean total labour requirement is 4.27. Of the 298 households interviewed during the survey, 50 percent reported a "decrease" in labour availability over the years, 26 percent reported "thesame", and 24 percent reported "increased". "We are quite surprised with the findings.

We initially assumed that only villages near urban settlements would have been affected. But the survey reveals that even far-flung and interior regions are affected by this problem," says the project director of the RNRRC in Bajo, Sangay Duba. This is essentially because farm household labour availability has become dependent on "the walking distance from the road point". It has been observed that labour availability decreases with an increase in the time of the walking distance.

Migration from the villages as a dominant factor resulting in the shortage of farm labour

The survey report also attributes migration from the villages as a dominant factor resulting in the shortage of farm labour. "Students leave their villages after completing their studies. Many people have already joined the armed forces, the government, or some services.Others have become monks and anims. Only old people remain in the villages," says the RNR extension agent in Khaling, Nima Weezer.

Survey findings reveal that farm labour scarcity has had a negative impact on farming operations and agricultural development. There has been areduction in the area of cultivation, food production has become restricted to subsistence, livestock population has decreased, and agricultural work isnever completed on time. Other alarming developments such as increase in the cost of farming, low crop yield, insufficient food, and change of farming practices are also observed with increasing frequency. These new developments have not only seriously challenged the ministry of agriculture"s guiding principle of "efficient and sustainable use of naturalresources", but has also put the cherished goal of attaining food self-sufficiency in jeopardy.

While the government recognizes the dwindling farm labour as "one of the biggest constraints", many feel that a lot remains to be done to solve the problem. Strategies adopted by the ministry of agriculture to alleviate farm labour shortage have been difficult to execute. Government officials themselves complain of the "lack of inter-sectoral coordination" in efforts to curtail the problem.

Relevant government agencies have as yet not been able to come up with a reliable "documented information and hard data" on farm labour shortage. "For proper economic planning and growth, we need basic information and data. But this need is not fully appreciated in some sectors of thegovernment," says the head of the policy and planning division in the ministry of agriculture, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho. He, however, mentions that the ministry of agriculture realizes the "seriousness of farm labour shortage" and is fully committed towards solving theproblem. "We have already put in place a number of measures such as construction of rural access roads, farm mechanization, and special trainingpackages on farm businesses for school-leavers," he says.

The survey report mentions a number of valuable recommendations suggested by farmers of which two are seen as being of "crucial importance".

The first is the need "to improve rural areas by improving the standard of living and quality of village lives" to discourage rural-urban migration.

The second is "to make farming more profitable by introducing appropriate and economically efficient agricultural technologies and improving the marketand marketing system in the country".

During the survey, households were categorized as "good", "medium", and "poor". "The farmers actually categorized themselves depending on their "chodub" ability to carry out livelihood activities," says Sangay Duba. "The idea of categorizing the farmers is essentially to see which categoryis the most affected," he says.

The questionnaire for the survey covered areas such as household location and land use, livestock number, availability of hired labour, seriousness andimpact of the labour shortage problem, and farmer"s strategies to overcome the problem. The survey carried out by the RNRRC in Bajo was the first major step taken to gauge and analyze the severity and the extent of the shortage of farmlabour in the country. Livestock, field crops, farming system, and forestry research assistants from the RNR sector conducted the survey.

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
Development in Bhutan Economy in Bhutan
previous page Bhutan HOME