Much has been written and talked about our endeavour to become organic by 2020. The discussion that was held to assess where Bhutan is in becoming one was timely and revealing. As the Parliament deliberates on the budget, the meeting on organic farming revealed that there was not enough budget allocated to implement the framework that was drafted to guide the country into becoming organic.
With farmers largely using forest litter and farmyard manure to cultivate crops, which are sustainable and environmentally friendly, the intention to make Bhutan organic was made in 2003. Studies estimate that less than 10 percent of the country practice organic agriculture and suggest that Bhutan has the potential to become organic. However, this process to become organic is not only challenged by budget constraints; we are increasingly becoming dependent on imported vegetables. Efforts are made to encourage farmers to take up commercial farming when farmers in some communities are not even practicing subsistence agriculture anymore.
Confronted with such challenges, the vision to make Bhutan the first country to become organic by 2020 remains uncertain. We may not even be able to grow enough to feed ourselves by 2020 if the state of the agriculture sector today is any indicator. It is hoped that our policymakers will intervene to make farming not just attractive, but also productive.
But where challenges are myriad, opportunities are also aplenty. We now know where we stand and what needs to be done to realise the vision of becoming organic. It is a process and a gradual one, just as the country’s development journey has been. Increased awareness and continued political will could help stakeholders implement the framework because the vision to make Bhutan organic is as much about making the country self-sufficient and food secure.
Bhutan’s food security hinges on the agriculture sector, which is prone to climate change. But we still depend on agriculture because we believe that it has the potential to make us self – sufficient and food secure. Agriculture for food security is now taught in schools.
When we teach children about our agriculture practices and policies, we must also give the sector priority.