The story of data-driven agriculture in FSAPP Dzongkhags and beyond

Karma, a dedicated farmer from Samtse, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, growing buckwheat and potatoes. Despite his hard work, making ends meet was a constant challenge. There were seasons when the harvest was good, but Karma had no clear understanding of his earnings relative to his expenses.

Tshering Wangchuk, agriculture extension officer (AEO) of Kana Gewog under Dagana dzongkhag, shared similar frustrations. Proposing the introduction of new crop varieties without a proper cost-benefit analysis was nearly impossible. Collecting data from farmers, many of whom were illiterate, resulted in rough estimates rather than concrete numbers.

This all began to change during an investment training session conducted for the implementing partners under the Food Security and Agriculture Productivity Project (FSAPP) where participants, including AEOs and researchers, were introduced to a straightforward yet effective tool for calculating the Cost of Production (CoP) and Return on Investment (RoI). This tool, developed by Loday Phuntsho, the marketing and value chain expert from FAO Bhutan, is an Excel-based template. It allows users to input data such as seed costs, labour, and machinery expenses, automatically generating CoP and RoI for any commodity.

Loday emphasized the critical role of CoP and RoI in project development, be it agriculture or other sectors. Before this, analyses relied on outdated and sometimes inaccurate departmental data. The new template enabled real-time, precise calculations, revolutionizing how agricultural projects were planned and evaluated.

Inspired by the training, Tshering Wangchuk returned to his gewog and trained educated farmers to use the template. “They now keep detailed records of all their activities, making it easier for me to analyze and report on their progress,” Tshering said.

For Karma, the template was transformative. He recorded his expenses and calculated net revenue, discovering that while potatoes were moderately profitable, buckwheat was barely breaking even. Armed with this insight, Karma reduced his buckwheat cultivation, opting instead for high-value crops like cardamom. The result? A significant boost in his overall profits and a move towards more sustainable farming practices.

The benefits of the template extend beyond individual farmers. Agriculture officers use the data to understand the economic health of various crops, offering better advice to farmers. Haa Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer said that they can identify trends, recommend more profitable crops, and promote best practices using the template. For policymakers, the aggregated data provides a comprehensive view of the agricultural economy, enabling the development of targeted subsidies, support programs, and policies that foster sustainable and profitable farming.

The introduction of the CoP/RoI template marks a new era for Bhutanese agriculture. It empowers farmers with the knowledge to make their businesses viable and profitable, ensuring better livelihoods. For agriculture officers and policymakers, it offers a clear roadmap to support and enhance the agricultural sector.

In Bhutan, where farming is not just an occupation but a way of life, this tool bridges the gap between tradition and modernity, ensuring that the heritage of farming continues with greater efficiency and profitability. As Bhutan embraces this innovative approach, the future of its agriculture looks brighter and more promising than ever.

The CoP/RoI template is available for free download on the Department of Agriculture’s website.

* FSAPP is funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and implemented by the Department of Agriculture under Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. World Bank is its supervising entity, and the FAO provides technical assistance. 

Contributed by: Project Management Unit, FSAPP

Related Posts

About The Author