Constructive Steps Need To Be Taken For Bhutan To Become 100% Organic
Various measures need to be taken for Bhutan to become 100% organic by 2020.
By Pema Seldon | Business Bhutan
According to the Organic Agriculture Development Strategies report published by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), aiming for 100% organic agriculture is impractical in the short to medium term in Bhutan.
Source: Reality Sandwich
Bhutan’s stated vision to go 100% organic by 2020 will be easier said than done. This is especially so, given the significant challenges involved, including the fact that the country currently imports about 50% of its food requirements.
With the government’s desire to attain food security and import substitution in agriculture, this vision demands a serious reappraisal, according to the report launched in late May.
“Nevertheless, it is feasible to move towards an agriculture that is predominantly organic, particularly in selected crops and agro-ecological settings, promoted in a phased manner and over a long term framework,” the report states.
Potential and challenges assessed in achieving an organic agriculture in Bhutan
The ICIMOD signed a letter of intent with the MoAF to assess the potential and challenges for organic agriculture in Bhutan, with the objective of supporting the development of mountain rural livelihoods in the context of socio-economic and climate change in Bhutan.
With the aim of supporting mountain-specific policies, livelihood diversification and resilience for mountain communities, the ICIMOD in collaboration with the MoAF has designed a road map.
This includes several local and national level consultations, fieldwork in target areas and the production of a comprehensive study on the challenges and opportunities for organic agriculture in Bhutan.
Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world
The Director General of ICIMOD, David Molden said that Bhutan’s commitment to carbon neutrality has paid off since it is the world’s only carbon negative country.
“Going organic can reduce the dependency of agriculture on fossil fuel-generated fertilisers and pesticides and contribute to ensuring that Bhutan remains a carbon neutral country,” said David Molden.
Agriculture is a primary sector that serves as the main source of livelihood and provides employment to about 58% of Bhutan’s population.
Currently, about 40,000 acres of the land (including largely wild non-wood forest product collections) are under organic management. An additional target of 10,125 acres of land under organic management has been proposed under the 12th five year plan.
The priority and challenge for the MoAF is to meet national self-sufficiency while keeping the agriculture systems largely organic.
Although the national organic program was recognised and given a program status in the national organic agenda, it did not have the adequate resources to meet the desired goals.
It was thus assumed that organic agriculture received relatively lower priority in the 11th five year plan which was indicated by the progressively lower budgetary allocations. The national organic program coordination was also difficult.
In the current 12th five year plan process, the organic agenda has been recognised as one of the agency key result areas for the MoAF.
Challenges concerning the implementation of organic agriculture in Bhutan
According to the report, in the present context, organic agriculture is faced with different types of challenges. Empirical data relating to organic agriculture is largely unavailable and research on organic agriculture is at a nascent stage and needs emphasis to generate alternatives for organic farming.
“The framework for organic agriculture is not very comprehensive for each sector to prioritise and focus,” the report states.
The organic sector is also beset with a number of issues related to markets and value chains, including the lack of appropriate supply and demand side mechanisms such as the relatively poor quality of organic produce currently available, the absence of price premiums over local produce and low consumer awareness.
While most of the necessary frameworks to support organic agriculture currently exist, they have largely remained un-implemented because of limited resources and implementation capacity.
Steps to be taken to reach the goal of becoming 100% organic
The report recommended an adoption of a phased approach over the immediate short, medium and long term. It will be presented during the multi-stakeholders validation workshop held in Thimphu in June.
Constructive steps such as value addition, product development, marketing and the promotion of local organic products will be included in the short term priorities (five years).
Moreover, the establishment of a research program to cover selected principal crops in pilot projects across relevant agro climatic contexts in the country will also be a key strategy.
The medium to long term priorities include the integration of more holistic and broad approaches for promoting organic agriculture.
These approaches include planning and implementing organic agriculture, explicitly incorporating risk management and mitigation strategies into organic agriculture policies and programming.
This article first appeared in Business Bhutan and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.