When stats say little, there is only one thing we can do. Forget trusting it. That’s the only way.
Nowhere is this more relevant than in Bhutan’s agriculture sector. Government reports tell us that we are still largely an agrarian society.
Yes, we are.
A large number of our people are engaged in agriculture. Perhaps. Why are we not producing enough then?
That’s what the stats don’t tell us.
But our agriculture dream has always been big. It has been in our planned programmes since early 1960. But we are still an import-dependent country—even for food!
Covid-19 is bad. Covid-19 good. For Bhutan, Covid-19 is an opportunity. Are we harnessing the blessings that are now coming our way?
We aren’t. And that’s a national shame.
We are now more focused on agriculture. This is according to the many press releases, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. Farmers are now taking up commercial production. Laid off employees from the affected sectors like entertainment and tourism have reportedly become innovative farmers.
We also hear about problems facing them in trying to try their hands in farms.
There is the persistent problem. It was with youth when youth unemployment became the major problem in the country. Agriculture was seen as the biggest employer but only a few could get into it. Agriculture, ironically, is too expensive in Bhutan.
A series of reforms were initiated to ease the problems in the sector, but there has not been a significant improvement. Agriculture is still an expensive affair among a majority of Bhutanese. Loans are difficult, which continue to make agriculture unattractive, especially among the younger Bhutanese population.
This is just one aspect of the problem. While the fallowing of land keeps growing, we continue to glorify the growth of agriculture. The ground realities are sadly very different.
But we could change and the opportunity is now. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is this: we need to be self-sufficient, at least in the department of food. Why are our irrigation channels not functioning? Why the acreage of fallow land growing by the year?
Stats don’t give us the real picture.
That’s probably why we are not able to come up with a solid and forward-looking agriculture policy. But why must an agrarian society like ours suffer this problem?
The answer is: we have gotten our priories totally wrong. Strong agriculture is Bhutan’s future. We have the opportunity now. We must seize it.