Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Need for diverse food in the Bhutanese diet, challenges in pursuing entrepreneurship and the need to minimise food waste were among the many issues discussed at the 40th session of Bhutan Dialogues, a meeting of youth and farmers, held in Punakha on August 13.

Farmer Ugyen Tshering said that while there was support from the government and institutions, Bhutan didn’t have a long-term strategy for agriculture. “Everyone is working alone. The Netherlands produces the highest amount of potatoes and the second is the US but America has a larger landmass. How did they achieve it?”

He added that the case study showed that focusing on technology and knowledge made it achievable. “If our agriculture sector shifts towards that we will be able to create secondary and tertiary jobs within the agriculture sector.”

The panellists also discussed the need to minimise food waste.

“In urban areas, 60 percent of waste is organic waste. It is a big concern. It is the mindset that we can put in children to change this,” Nisha Gurung, student of College of Natural Resources (CNR) said.

Themed ‘Bhutan’s young change-makers—new ideas for old problems,’ the dialogue had two students of the CNR and entrepreneur Ugyen Tshering as panellists.

Nisha Gurung said that Bhutan’s staple food rice had a high glycemic index, which could lead to diseases such as diabetes.

Another student, Palden Wangchuk Dorji said that in the past decades the agriculture sector should develop and so must production. “But production in Bhutan has been fluctuating a lot. We say that rice is a staple food but when we go through the production of Bhutan, we are not even self-sufficient.”

Challenges in the farming sector were also highlighted in the discussion. Panellists expressed concerns over increasing graduates opting for civil service jobs over agriculture.

Nisha Gurung pointed out that due to the security of the job, civil service was attractive to graduates.

Panellists also suggested making entrepreneurship an elective in CNR.

The session was hosted by the founder and president of Loden Foundation Karma Phuntsho (PhD). The UN resident coordinator in Bhutan Gerald Daly also attended the session.

Edited by Tshering Palden