It is said that within every crisis there is an opportunity. The news of new coronavirus has disrupted life and businesses, but in here we see opportunities.
The agriculture minister yesterday assured the people of having enough stock of food to last three months should there be a complete lockdown and import of essential items hampered.
Ours is an import-driven economy. We import everything from rice to oil to aircraft. The import bill is massive. To put into context, the money we make from exporting electricity, our number one export item, is only enough to pay for the import of oil and lubricants.
There are many items that we cannot do but depend on import. But there are others, especially food items that we can produce, enough for all. We are an agriculture society. It is still our mainstay and this is the time to see if we can produce our own food.
Our ancestors imported only salt. Rice, meat and vegetable, even though scarce, were not imported.
The dolom kam (dried brinjal) or lom (dried turnip leaves), considered a delicacy today, were born out of necessity. Many regions didn’t grow vegetables in winter. They dried it in summer as winter vegetables. Today with improved technology in agriculture, we can almost grow everything, including those that are new to us.
The new coronavirus has not caused a crisis yet. It has certainly created an opportunity to relook at our policies.
For sustainability and food self-sufficiency, the best is growing our own. The government realised this and in the wake of the new coronavirus, are fine-tuning the 12th Plan. The Sanam lyonpo said the government would fast-forward progammes that targeted import substitution and promoting local produce. We thank the novel coronavirus for this.
If COVID-19 is having an impact on all sectors, prioritising and investing in agriculture could have better ripple effects. It will not only keep people in the villages, but also attract the young workforce to the sector thereby creating jobs and bringing back our limited arable land to life. This could be one way of reaping the demographic dividend.
Meanwhile, with schools closed for two weeks, teachers, parents and policymakers are exploring how to keep students engaged and make up for the lost instructional time.
They have found a solution in information technology.
Virtual classes where children can attend class from the safety of their homes sounds pragmatic and practical. There will still be some schools and students missed out, but there are also ways to include them.
Given that fake news on the virus could reach the most remote household in the country, lessons on social media apps can reach students everywhere. A student in Sakteng or Dorokha or Soe could watch a YouTube video on the World Wars, a history lesson in Class VIII. It could be more effective than listening to Lopon Dorji talk about Adolf Hitler or Stalin.
Our children are taught that necessity is the mother of all invention. We need no invention here. We take advantage of opportunities that are already there, but forgot to explore.
It could be better than what we did before the new coronavirus shook up us all.