FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Will Bhutan Be The World’s First Organic Nation?
Posted:Dec 17, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Erin Levi
 
Pinched between India and China, two of the most polluted and populous countries in the world, Bhutan is an anomaly: Tiny (in size and population), carbon-neutral, and committed to conservation, mandating that 60 percent of its forests remain protected.
 
But above all, this Buddhist kingdom, which measures its development by Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GDP, recently gained newfound media attention for aiming to become the first organic country by 2020. With herbicides and meat farms on the rise and less than five years to go, that goal is still very much a green dream. 
 
 
The idea first appeared in the National Framework for Organic Farming in Bhutan in 2006, a document that posited that organic farming offered a sustainable model and “a symbol of a healthy living with nature and respect for all sentient beings.” The plan called for a complete overhaul of Bhutan’s agriculture system, which historically had been subsistence farming and animal husbandry until the 1960s, when pesticides were first introduced to encourage development. 
 
Related: How Much Roundup Are You Eating?
 
The plan called for the development of organic standards. A decade later, officials are still working on that, so most food goes from farm to market without labels. It also calls for the education of farmers in organic methods, such as composting and bio-pest control, the hazards of herbicides or fertilizers, and suitable crops. Subsidies would be given to organic farmers because organic farming is more labor intensive and because in markets, conventional and organic products are sold at the same price and conventional products from India are even cheaper (imported because Bhutan has trouble producing enough food for itself). There is hope that organic farming will create job opportunities, but many young people think farming is backwards and are leaving rural areas for the capital city, Thimphu, which is why the use of herbicides has more than doubled in the past 15 years, according to Kuensel, Bhutan’s English-language newspaper.
 
Despite these challenges, a few private entities, civil-society organizations, and NGOs are working towards the goal. The Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative has trained more than 1,000 farmers and local agriculture officers in organic farming and aims to make Samdrup Jongkhar the first fully organic district in Bhutan. Bio Bhutan sells the only internationally certified organic product in the country, a zesty lemongrass essential oil cultivated in eastern Bhutan, and supports gainful employment in rural areas. Lotus Foods grows organic Bhutanese red rice to sell internationally, including many health food stores in the U.S. And MyBhutan, a new NGO and travel portal, is in the midst of launching an organic brewery and producing its first batch of organic honey, which it plans to sell overseas next year. 
 
Related: FDA Approves Genetically Modified Salmon
 
Luxury lodges like Uma by COMO and Amankora boast onsite gardens, which grow fresh produce like basil, edible flowers, mint, turnips, pumpkins, kale, and varietals of Bhutanese chilies, among other vegetables and herbs, and support organic suppliers like the Himalayan Chef’s Garden. Amankora’s executive chef Christian Brinkley says that 80 percent of what they serve is organic. And Bhutan Homestay, which has a network of organic farm- and home-stays throughout the country, channels 2 percent of the proceeds into a community fund supporting organic agriculture.
 
On my last trip, I stayed with a jovial vegetable and dairy farmer, Tashi Wangmo, at her lofty heritage home in Bumthang’s Ura Valley. By her warm kitchen hearth, she showed me photos from her trips to Austria, where she learned organic dairy practices and in return taught the Austrians how to make momos. This was thanks to the Bhutan-Network, an Austrian NGO that brings farmers from Bhutan to learn organic farming in Austria for eight weeks at a time. 
 
For now, the Buddhist government is prioritizing its end goal over meeting a deadline. “I am not worried that we may or may not be organic by 2020,” says Kesang Tshomo, the National Organic Programme coordinator. “It is good enough to know that we are working towards it and the direction has not changed.” 
 
Erin Levi is the author of the Bradt Travel Guides’ forthcoming guide to Bhutan.
 
Rodale's Organic Life (Politics), December 18, 2015
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
  Nearly 58 per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.
 
read-more
A unique and passionate gathering of acrophiles, or mountain lovers, took place in neat and picturesque Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram state in north-eastern India in September.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
With over 100 incidents of braid chopping reported in different parts of Kashmir, there is widespread fear and anger among the people.
 
read-more
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's GDP expanded 6.9 percent year on year in the first three quarters of 2017, an increase of 0.2 percent above that of the corresponding period of last year.
 
read-more
As political roller coasters go, there is none as steep and unpredictable as the one shared by the United States and Iran.
 
read-more
In West Asia, the end of one war paves the way for the next. Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the self-styled Islamic State (IS), has fallen to a coalition of rebels, the Syrian Democratic Forces that is backed by the United States.
 
read-more
On “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century”
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive