Photo: WFP/Binai Lama/2020

Bhutan

>3%

of Bhutan's land is arable

730,000

people reside in Bhutan

8.2%

is the national poverty rate

The Situation

Bhutan is a small Himalayan kingdom in South Asia, landlocked between China in the north and India in the south. The country’s development policies and plans are guided by the concept of “Gross National Happiness” which stresses the achievement of equitable and sustainable development over economic growth. Investments in health, education and a peaceful transition to a democratic constitutional monarchy have resulted in a reduction in poverty from 23.% to 8.2% in just a decade.

Bhutan is located in one of the most seismically active zones in the world. The country is prone to earthquakes, floods, glacial lake outburst floods, landslides and forest fires, and is located in a region where the level of risk from climate variability and climate change varies from “extreme” to a “very high.” The impacts of climate change are expected to lead to even more frequent and intense disasters, threatening to reverse Bhutan’s progress towards food security.

The country’s mountainous terrain limits commercial farming and isolates rural populations from markets. These constraints mean Bhutan imports about half its food from neighboring countries.

WFP's Work

WFP has been present in Bhutan since 1974. This partnership has focused on providing school meals to thousands of children across the country in order to boost school attendance and reduce levels of malnutrition. In January 2019, WFP handed over its school meals program to the government – which will continue to provide nutritious meals to children each day.

WFP is now supporting the government’s graduation from least developed country status to lower middle-income status by providing technical assistance and capacity support in the areas of:

  • Nutrition: WFP supports the national health system in the prevention and management of malnutrition. Projects aim to boost the availability, accessibility and consumption of fortified foods and to improve the health and diet of Bhutan’s children through school menu design, nutrition curriculum development, behavior change campaigns and supply chains. WFP also works with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to increase the production of nutritious crops and to link farmers directly to schools.
  • Climate resilient food systems and agriculture: WFP is supporting the government as it strengthens livelihoods and climate resilient food systems. WFP’s assistance is implemented across the agriculture value chain by boosting demand for local food, building production capacity and refining post-harvest management, marketing, knowledge management, cost efficiency and coordination.
  • Disaster preparedness and response: WFP is building Bhutan’s resilience to disasters and climate change as the United Nations lead in Bhutan on disaster risk management (DRM). WFP is assisting the government across five areas: governance and coordination, data preparedness, logistics, emergency telecommunications and food security. This includes the development of a National Road Map for DRM, the establishment of national capacity for a disaster response within 72 hours, earthquake impact modeling, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood research, contingency planning, strengthening emergency telecommunications, emergency logistics preparedness and the establishment of humanitarian staging areas.