Rural Development and Climate Change Response Programme in Bhutan (Phase 1)

At a glance

2012-11-01 to 2016-11-01
Active programmes
Royal Government of Bhutan
Total budget
4,12 M€
GCCA priority area(s)

Leadership by the climate change-mandated Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in the renewable natural resources (RNR) sector, which is the lead-Ministry for this programme, and the Ministry's cooperation efforts with all concerned parties is crucial in reaching the results and objectives. The Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for the RNR sector is clearly linked to the sector objectives.

Required activities to achieve the expected results and objectives cover among others a thorough and consultative planning exercise, a realistic costing and budgeting exercise for all planned CCA actions, an assessment and determination of the responsibility of each stakeholder and the establishment of a formal coordination mechanism for the planning and implementation of climate change adaptation measures.


Climate Change Context

Bhutan's development is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, hydropower, and forestry. People's livelihoods and rural economies are being negatively impacted by changing rain patterns (more heavy rains and longer dry periods) and increasing temperatures. One of the most significant impacts of climate change in Bhutan is the formation of supra-glacial lakes due to the accelerated retreat of glaciers with increasing temperatures. The risk of potential disasters inflicted by Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which pose new threats to lives, livelihoods and development, is mounting as the water levels in several glacier lakes approach critical geostatic thresholds.

Although current disaster management policies, risk reduction, and preparedness plans in Bhutan are able to address recurrent natural hazards in the country, they are not yet prepared to deal with the new GLOF threat.

Bhutan's entire northern region has glacier/snow-fed lakes near its mountaintops. With a majority of Bhutan's population and infrastructure development concentrated in large river valleys, climate-induced GLOFs could cause significant human and economic devastation. Rising mean temperatures, attributed to climate change, are the main cause of glacial retreat and are correlated with faster rates of glacier melt. The result is that glaciers in Bhutan are receding at a rate of almost 30-60 meters per decade. The melting ice from these receding glaciers is increasing the volume of water in glacial lakes, and the melting of ice-cored dams is destabilizing them, pushing the hazard risk for GLOFs to critical levels.

Source: UNDP ALM Country Profile (Accessed 14/08/2014)

GCCA's action programme
Geographical scope
Initial GCCA/GCCA+ contribution
3,600,000.00 €

Overall objective
The overall objective of the present action is to assist Bhutan in reducing poverty and inequality by developing sustainable rural livelihoods resilient to climate change impacts and by facilitating the key objectives of Bhutan's 11th and 12th five year plans in the RNR sector.

Specific objective

The specific objective is to ensure climate change readiness of the Renewable Natural Resources sector in Bhutan by mainstreaming climate change into the sector and ensuring steps were taken towards increasingly addressing climate change adaptation at multi-sectoral level.

  • Development of a Renewable Natural Resources-Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan,
  • Mainstreaming of the RNR Climate Change Adaptations Action Plan into the 11th Five Year Plan
  • Implementation of the climate change actions reflected in the 11th FPY on the ground.
  • Establishment of an institutional framework allowing a multi-sectoral approach to climate change adaptation aiming at embedding the Climate Change Adaptation of the sector into a multi-sectoral climate change adaptation strategy.

The programme is a sector programme funded through sector budget support. It therefore focuses on results rather than activities. The results are outlined above.

  • The conditions for disbursement of all fixed and variable tranches included the four general conditions for sector budget support: Macroeconomic stability and prospected growth, quality of the Public Financial Management system and progress on its reform agenda, budget transparency and progress towards sector strategy and implementation.
  • The sector progress is assessed through the programme's Performance Assessment Framework (PAF), which covers the following results: Endorsement of a Renewable Natural Resources-Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan of adequate quality and stakeholder consultation, mainstreaming of this Action Plan into the 11th Five Year Plan and consequent continuous implementation on the ground, as well as the establishment of an institutional framework allowing a multi-sectoral approach to climate change adaptation.
  • The following additional indicators for release of variable tranches have been defined as follows: Climate Change Adaptation-readiness of the monitoring and evaluation system, improvement of the RNR statistical systems to allow for reliable data collection, indicators related to the implementation of the Sector Adaptation Plan of Action (or SAPA). In particular five additional indicators have been defined in 2014 and relating to water efficient irrigation systems for horticulture cash crops, households adopting stall feeding lots, National Forest Inventory, conservations and use of indigenous animal breeds and crop varieties for agro-biodiversity, climate change adaptation policy.

Achievements to date
  • The Financing Decision was adopted on December 21, 2011. Details of the Technical Administrative Provision were re-assessed and reformulated between DEVCO, the Delegation and the Royal Government of Bhutan
  • In December 2012 the Secretary MoAF formally assigned the task of Programme Management to the Council of RNR Research in Bhutan (CoRRB), a Department of MoAF. A Programme Coordination Unit consisting of 4 staff was established within CoRRB in December 2012.
  • A Senior Advisor to the programme was recruited a first time in December 2012 to start his assignment mid-March 2013 and end it in November 2013 and a second time which started mid-March 2014 and ended in October 2014.
  • The SAPA has been prepared and consolidates and integrates the climate change adaptation related programs, themes and actions of the RNR sector as included in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) and the Bhutan National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).
  • A review meeting between EU and MoAF/CoRRB was held in early March 2013 at which the Programme coordination unit (PCU), Department Focal Persons as well as some members of the Specialist Group were present.
  • The First Project Steering Committee (PSC) Meeting was held on 24 September 2013 during which the PCU presented the key process, progress and next steps and discussion took place on budget allocation and implementation modalities of the programme.
  • Based on the level of poverty, status of community resilience and need for climate change adaptation initiatives in the Dzongkhags across all the major watersheds of Bhutan, the Kuri Chhu basis/watershed has been identified for implementing the programme.
  • The first fixed tranche payment was approved in July 2013 and paid in September 2013 for an amount of 700,000 EUR.
  • A First Annual Review Mission (ARM) and Mid-Term Review took place in April 2014 and final reports issued. Further to this mission the Joint Annual Review meeting took place on 9 June 2014 gathering the EUD, the PCU, and PPD/MoAF.

Challenges and lessons learned
  • A challenge encountered during identification and formulation is the crosscutting nature of the climate change theme and the difficulties faced when trying to define climate change as a sector and link it to one single Government counterpart agency.
  • Experiences stress that appropriate timing and adherence to the set time schedule is essential for climate change adaptation mainstreaming. Given the delay in signing the FA, the approach implying that EU support would accompany the process of the formulation of the 11th FYP has almost been missed out and efforts had to be made, once the FA was signed, to still support the plan formulation process and ensure mainstreaming of climate change adaptation in the sector FYP.
  • There are a large number of institutions involved in climate change in Bhutan and coordination of their efforts is still too fragmented. The GCCA programme has started this process within MoAF.
  • Using budget support means that activities should not be delayed due to a late payment in the fiscal year from the EU side.

  • The programme supported the development of a Data Centre and a RNR-CC information system which provide an overview of the impacts of climate change on the RNR-sector based on a landscape as a complex system with multiple interacting sectors. The purpose of the RNR-CC information system is to operationalize the overall RNR climate change policy and strategy in Bhutan.
  • A visibility exercise was launched in the course of 2016 to make a short video clip and good pictures involving direct beneficiaries in various remote villages in Bhutan.