Bhutan Leads the Way to Organic Nationhood

Isolated Bhutan is perhaps best known for espousing Gross National Happiness.  The Buddhist nation is now seeking recognition as the first country to become 100% organic.

Last month at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said his government is developing a National Organic Policy because the country’s farmers are increasingly convinced that “by working in harmony with nature, they can help sustain the flow of nature’s bounties.”  Thinley said he wants to make “the ‘raised in Bhutan’ label synonymous with ‘organically grown.'”

“Bhutan has decided to go for a green economy in light of the tremendous pressure we are exerting on the planet,” Bhutan Agriculture Minister Pema Gyamtsho said. “If you go for very intensive agriculture it would imply the use of so many chemicals, which is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature.”

Pema Yezer writes in Bhutan Times:

If the vision statement of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is met, Bhutan would go organic by 2020.

This ambitious goal is laid down in the National Framework for Organic Farming in Bhutan.

“This is unique in the world as Bhutan is the first country to state in this document that the long term goal is to make the whole country organic and it will approach the transition in specific products and specific areas with a gradual changeover,” says Kesang Tshomo, coordinator of the National Organic Program, MoA.

Bhutan has an advantage. In the past, emphasis was laid on the provision of modern varieties for higher production in line with green revolution elsewhere. However, with the current global movement for clean environment and natural products, Bhutan with a very low usage of chemical inputs could easily become a pioneer in organic farming.

“All Bhutanese should be able to eat as much organic food as possible as just now organic food in Bhutan is sold at the same price as conventional food,” says Kesang Tshomo “The National Organic Program has developed a mark /logo that will be used by registered organic farmers. So soon we will be able to identify the products that are grown locally by our organic farmers to give assurance of purity.”

According to global definition by International Federation of Organic agriculture Movement, organic farming is based on four principles of health, ecology, fairness and care. These principles are applied in the dealing, production, and management, processing and trading of organic produces.

“The motto of the organic farmer is to protect the earth’s resources and produce safe, healthy food,” says Kesang Tshomo.

Conservation of natural resources, protecting the environment and the long term fertility of the soil and preventing soil erosion, retaining local agriculture knowledge, proper care of water resources and ‘zero impact’ on the environment are the benefits of organic farming, she added.

Supporters of organic lifestyle believe that “food produced in this manner is of higher quality and possesses higher nutritional value in comparison to food produced by conventional, chemical based methods”.

“By using fertilizers, production yield from a unit area is maximum which helps farmers in the short term,” says Namgay, a farmer from Trashigang. “However, this is an unhealthy agricultural practice because over time, the productivity of the land decreases. Organic farming is a good substitute.”

He said organic farming is actually a primitive practice followed by the ancesters before chemical fertilizers came into existence. “And even today, in many rural parts of Bhutan, organic farming is practiced because farmers face difficulties in getting chemical fertilizers.”