We are now going to have an RNR strategy 2040.

What does it even mean?

Agriculture, under which comes also forest in its totality, is a development dimension that we are yet to understand.

Agriculture in Bhutan, in the true sense of the term, has been a failure.

And there are the plans, one after another. When we are a nation in the Himalayas with abundant water resources, why should we be clamouring about water shortage, for example? We are, perhaps, the biggest owners of forest resources, yet why do we continue to import wood and wood products?

According to a study, the agricultural sector growth and its contributions to the country’s economy have been decreasing with a record low at 4.36 percent in 2018, which is associated with the poor performance of the forestry sub-sector.

This had been plain to the common people for a long time; only the policymakers could not establish the right link.

Education and civil service have a new mandate now. It is high time we had one for agriculture.

Why is the biggest sector in the country not getting, not receiving, the pride of place?

If bureaucracy is the main hurdle, why can’t we remove it entirely and replace with something arrangements that work? Where civil servants have not been able to act, for ages, volunteer groups are making it happen, overnight.

RNR strategy 2040 says that decreasing trend of the sector’s contribution to GDP is linked to lack of accounting forestry services. Why and how is this even happening?

We have been aware, all these years, that frequent organisational reviews impede meaningful change; and there are policy conflicts, ad hoc adjustment of plans, lack of “cascading plans”, and absence of monitoring and evaluation.

But then, the people have been, and are, paying for these vital services.

Logical and sustainable use of forest resources should be at the heart of service provision strategy from the agriculture ministry.

According to the reports collected and presented by the “experts”, Bhutan has 1,001 million (M) m3 of forests and natural vegetation, and 7,434 floral and faunal biodiversity. However, the economic returns from the “vast” natural resources so far been negligible.

The government last year announced measures to export wood-based products, which is expected to save more than Nu 3 billion (B) revenue losses from import of these products. 

Bioprospecting, the exploration of natural resources for micro and macro molecules, biochemical and genetic information, for example, can employ thousands of Bhutanese youth in an industry that has the potential to both produce and provide.

Economic development must begin from looking inward.

But then, sustainable utilisation of natural resources is one thing, making it equally beneficial is another. That’s what strategy 2040 must address.