Assessment of Water Availability for Agriculture in Bhutan and Nepal

4-3 ICIMOD Bhutan Agriculture

This image shows the distance from the nearest water source, based on elevation and Euclidean distance in Bhutan. This information will be used in Bhutan and Nepal to assess areas most beneficial for agricultural practices.

Project Team: Bhutan and Nepal Agriculture Team
Team Location: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal; and Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama.

Kel Markert, Central Lead (University of Alabama in Huntsville)
Prabesh Shrestha, Project Lead (Kathmandu University)
Tenzin, Project Lead (Sherubtse College, Kanglung)
Binayak Tiwari (Tribhuvan University)
Kezang Gaden (Sherubtse College, Kanglung)
Namgay Dorji (Sherubtse College, Kanglung)
Jean-Baptise Kayitare (California Baptist University)
Modeste Muhire (Michigan Technological University)

Sebastian Wesselman (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal)
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Science Advisor)
Dr. Pankaj Thapa (Sherubtse College, RUB, Kanglung, Bhutan)

Past/Other Contributors:
Department of Hydro Met Services, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Thimphu, Bhutan
Prevous DEVELOP Interns at ICIMOD, Nepal


Bhutan has a largely agrarian economy, with 79 percent of its population engaged in agriculture and livestock farming. As such, agriculture is an important source of employment and part of daily life for the Bhutanese people. Addressing agriculture challenges is crucial for planning, decision- and policymaking as the government aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food commodities through domestic production. Moreover, the demand for food is still increasing to meet the food security for a growing population and provide more nutritious food. Agriculture challenges, such as land fragmentation, human wildlife conflict, and inadequate irrigational facilities, are growing issues which need immediate attention, as agricultural growth and productivity remains central to poverty reduction, particularly in a country like Bhutan, where a large share of the population relies on agriculture and agri-business for their livelihood. Therefore, this study aimed to portray the challenges and strategies of agriculture practices at a micro level.

Nepal is also an agricultural country with more than 65 percent of the population relying on agriculture for livelihood. However, agriculture as an occupation is challenging in the context of Nepal because of the topography, lack of proper irrigation and water supply, shortage of laborers and proper resources. Farmers are still using traditional methods for agriculture, which are difficult and time-consuming. In addition, farmers have to face different natural calamities like flood, landslide, drought, uneven rainfall, and acidic rainfall, making it even more difficult to sustain in this changing situation. In this context, the government of Nepal has recently formulated a 20-year Agriculture Development Strategy, emphasizing an increase in agricultural production to solve the food and nutritional security problems of the country by safeguarding the environment. Organizations like the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) also are assisting the Nepali government and people by producing useful data related to land situation for proper decision-making. This spring term, the issue of water availability has been the central topic of research to identify where problems occur, and how monitoring using NASA Earth observations can help identify these problems. This could help communities to anticipate, prepare or adapt (e.g., improving irrigation facilities) to changing situations.

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