Australian not-for-profit organisation Food Ladder has announced its expansion into Bhutan, after receiving funds from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi’s coveted Direct Aid Program.
The initial rollout will see Food Ladder, in partnership with Bhutanese not-for-profit organisation Tarayana Foundation, implement one of its custom-designed hydroponic food growing systems in the remote village of Rukha, five hours from the nation’s capital, Thimphu.
“We are thrilled to be working with the Australian Government to deliver a Food Ladder system to the in-need community of Rukha,” explains Food Ladder CEO Kelly McJannett. “The community will now be able to grow nutritional produce year-round in a system that is simple to use and extremely energy and water efficient.”
Australia’s High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Bhutan, Her Excellency Ms Harinder Sidhu, agrees: “We are proud to partner with Food Ladder in Bhutan, an organisation that has developed sustainable technologies to create food and economic security across communities globally. This project complements Australia’s broader and longstanding support for sustainable development in Bhutan.”
Home to the Olep ethnic group, Rukha was originally a hunter gatherer community. As a result the majority of the 200 residents are unable to access healthy food due to the town’s isolation and the community’s lack of knowledge in traditional agriculture practices.
“We have been working with the Rukha community since 2008,” says Tarayana Foundation Programmes Director Sonam Pem. “The Food Ladder project will complement our efforts, especially in terms of nutrition and food security. Any initiative to mechanise farming with an efficient result and productivity will greatly enhance the food security of the village.”
A third of Bhutan’s population suffers from food insecurity and one in three children show signs of stunted growth caused by chronic malnutrition, a figure which grows exponentially in remote rural areas. By implementing a Food Ladder system the community will be able to access fresh produce on a daily basis, as well as develop a self-sustaining business by selling the fruit and vegetables to local markets and schools.
”Bhutan’s mountainous Himalayan topography is notoriously difficult for growing crops,” explains Ms McJannett. “By growing produce in a Food Ladder system the community will be able to harvest enough food to sustain their diets, whilst also creating economic outcomes.”
Like much of Bhutan, Rukha struggles with youth unemployment, with recent school leavers and young mothers unable to find jobs in the village or neighbouring towns. These individuals will be employed to work at the Food Ladder system, where they will plant, harvest and sell the produce, under the leadership of a Tarayana Field Officer.
“Many school leavers show an interest in taking up farming as a career,” says Ms Pem. “However, we know that if we want these young, energetic youth to thrive in the village, it cannot be through tedious traditional farming ways. It has to be something more fun, efficient, productive and less of a drudgery. While exploring for such opportunities Food Ladder was introduced to us and the wait was over to materialise this aspiration.”
The Food Ladder system in Bhutan marks the second time the Australian High Commission has supported Food Ladder, with the not-for-profit organisation receiving funds in 2015-16 to establish, manage and maintain its social enterprise model in Haryana, India.
For more information, photographs or interview requests contact Food Ladder Communications Manager Olivia Shead on 0412 786 506.