More on Bhutan

What are the current issues in Bhutan

Bhutan's economy is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to IndiaAgrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry.

The country’s development philosophy stresses the achievement of equitable and sustainable development (Gross National Happiness) over economic growth. From the beginning, particular emphasis was placed on human development. However, close to one-third of the population suffers from food insecurity and it depends on imports for 34 percent of its cereal needs. 23.2% of the population live below the national poverty line of Nu.1, 096 (2008) (US$ 23.5) per person per month.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small landlocked country in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China.

Bhutan's economy is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80 percent of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry.

The country’s development philosophy stresses the achievement of equitable and sustainable development (Gross National Happiness) over economic growth. From the beginning, particular emphasis was placed on human development. However, close to one-third of the population suffers from food insecurity and it depends on imports for 34 percent of its cereal needs. 23.2% of the population live below the national poverty line of Nu.1, 096 (2008) (US$ 23.5) per person per month.

Although much has been achieved in education sector, Bhutan still has challenges to overcome. Some districts have a net primary enrollment rate significantly below the national average. That poverty is mainly a rural phenomenon reflects itself in the fact that rural enrolment is on an average 25% lower compared to urban areas.

Another very important concern is the malnutrition situation in the country. According to the National Nutrition and Infant and Young Child Feeding study (2009) it was found that the level of national prevalence was 37 percent for stunting, 11.1 percent for underweight and 4.6 percent for wasting

Bhutan is also prone to natural disasters, especially during the rainy season and access roads to remote areas may be closed for up to half the year.

The eastern and southern regions of Bhutan are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Bhutan

WFP’s assistance to Bhutan began in 1974 with a school-feeding project that covered 9 schools with a little over a thousand students. The level of assistance has increased in the following years spanning assistance to areas such as health, road construction, suspension bridges, agricultural, re-settlement, forestry, irrigation, diary development, price stabilization schemes and the establishment of a food buffer stock.

WFP’s current Development Programme in Bhutan “Improving Rural Children’s Access to Basic Education with a Focus on Primary Education” (2008 - 2012) aims to assist the government in its school feeding activities by addressing short-term hunger faced by children living far away from schools and by reducing the financial burden on poor rural parents; it also assists in alleviating certain micronutrient deficiencies, while contributing to an overall improvement of school enrolment rates and attendance. These children are especially coming from remote, food insecure areas with low primary school enrolment rates. Special attention is given to the girl students.

This project reflects the increasing role being assumed by the Government in the school feeding programme as part of a transition phase to complete Government support.
WFP also assists in infrastructural development like construction of boarding facilities, matron's quarters, kitchen, food stores and toilet facilities at remote, rural off-road, schools to increase access to education and for a self-sufficient and sustainable school feeding programme.

The objectives of WFP assistance are to:

  • Increase school enrolment, particularly among girls, for children in poor, food-insecure rural communities;
  • Maintain regular school attendance, particularly among girls;
  • Reduce gender disparity;
  • Alleviate short-term hunger and help children to concentrate in class; and
  • Enhance the capacities of the Government to manage the school feeding programme.