Many of us may not have read the full significance of a front page photograph in Kuensel this week. His Majesty The King is visiting a commercial farm in Bumthang, a farm that hopes to set a trend towards food self-sufficiency in Bhutan.
The implications of the farm is depicted by the photograph. His Majesty is talking to the farmers about the crops. In the Royal entourage are the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, NC Chairperson, the heads of DHI, and BDBL, meaning that the government, opposition, parliament, and funding sources are potentially together to work on a project for the people.
The project was initiated by the Opposition Leader, it was supported with advance funds by the Prime Minister, and the expertise and experience includes former and current government officials of the agriculture sector. It involves the local people of the area.
It is unusual – an irony in our small society is that we don’t often see the government, political parties, financial institutions working together. Neither do we normally see projects reaching out to the experience and expertise of retired public servants.
Granted that we are going through unique times that call for unique responses. Also granted that we are under pressure to provide basic necessities that have been obstructed by local, regional, and global lockdowns. But does such a trend take only when forced?
It is telling that seeing the government and opposition cooperating on a project surprises us. We are more used to political parties not getting along. That in itself says a lot about Bhutanese politics. We are even used to government agencies not working together. And that says much about the government’s functioning.
The necessity – even the novelty – of farming might excite tour guides, drayang dancers, and hoteliers for a while but only long term vision and initiatives will solve the problem. When it comes to agriculture and food production real sustainability will come with farmers being encouraged to farm and developing them on a commercial scale.
The Bumthang initiative was compelled by Covid-19. While circumstances do not dilute the benefits, we need to ask ourselves why should something so beneficial, and also profitable, have to be forced? Why is it not a natural inclination?
Our ancestors figured out a way to come together in an interdependent system without education, without research, without force, without tragedy. Then we lost that in a process called development.
If it takes a near tragedy to bring us together, so be it. If it takes such a crisis to bring the government and opposition together even under the umbrella of the State, so be it. When we work together, we are more effective. More important, when we work together it feels good.
What other reason do we need?