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Enhancing sustainability and resilience of forest and agricultural landscape in Bhutan

November 11, 2017

Bhutan group photo
'Protect landscapes to protect everything’: Bhutan announces national push for climate resiliency and conservation

As COP23 international climate talks continue in Bonn, Bhutan has launched a ground-breaking US$13.9 million Global Environment Facility (GEF) project aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities and protecting the country’s unique and rich biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.

The UNDP-supported project, ‘Enhancing Sustainability and Climate Resilience of Forest and Agriculture Landscape and Community Livelihoods in Bhutan, will  be implemented over six years. Covering 12 dzongkhags, 38 gewogs, four biological corridors and three protected areas, the project is Bhutan’s first integrated initiative, designed to support the interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Life on Land (SDG15), Climate Action (SDG13) and No Poverty (SDG1).

Launching the project in the presence of the Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and the Minister for Works and Human Settlement, Lyonpo Dorji Choden, CEO and Chairperson for the Global Environment Facility, Ms. Naoko Ishii, remarked on the leadership of Bhutan in environmental conservation.

“The visionary nature of Bhutan is manifest in this project. Combining biodiversity and ecosystem management work with climate change adaptation actions, Bhutan is again leading the world with an example of truly integrated programming,” said Ishii.

The new project is funded with $US1.1 million from the GEF Trust Fund for Sustainable Forest Management incentive fund, $2.3 million from thw GEF Trust Fund for Biodiversity and Land Degradation Focal Area, and $10.5 million from the GEF Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).

Bhutan has been witnessing clear signs of climate change, including melting glaciers, erratic monsoonal activities with extreme weather events and increase in incidents of forest fire.  Building the resilience of its people – of whom 69% remain dependent on agriculture – is a key priority of the Royal Government.

Commending the integrated and collaborative nature of the initiative, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said,  “UNDP is proud to continue supporting the Government of Bhutan in building resilience and meeting its development aspirations – in particular the interconnected goals of reducing poverty, adapting to climate change and protecting its precious habitats and biodiversity.”

The launch of the UNDP-supported project coincides with the launch of the Royal Government’s Bhutan for Life, an innovative, multi-partner funding initiative developed with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that aims to provide a sustained flow of finance to maintain Bhutan’s protected areas and biological corridors for perpetuity. USD $2.2m from the UNDP-supported project will contribute to the conservation milestones of Bhutan for Life, focusing on operationalizing four of Bhutan’s eight biological corridors through climate-adaptive conservation plans, improved governance, and improving the lives of people who live in or around the corridors and adjoining protected parks.

“The contribution of $2.2 million to Bhutan for Life, made possible through close collaboration of the Royal Government, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and WWF, is a testament to working together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through new development financing means,” said Steiner in a statement read at the project launch.

Remoteness, limited access to markets, and climate-induced droughts or floods present significant challenges to building resilient farming systems in Bhutan. This new project, with oversight from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission, will provide direct support to communities, demonstrating how climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management support local development. It will invest in a range of adaptation measures, including climate-resilient irrigation and road design, crop diversification; creation of biodiversity and conservation-oriented jobs, enhanced markets and market accessibility, and sustainable land management.  

This article was originally published by UNDP.