Social Innovation: Organic Farming, Climate Change and Bhutan

Feb 25th, 2013 | By | Category: Advocacy, Agriculture, Bhutan, Biodiversity, Capacity Development, Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Development and Climate Change, Disasters and Climate Change, Ecosystem Functions, Energy, Environment, Financing, Governance, Information and Communication, International Agencies, Lessons, Livelihood, Population, Tourism, Vulnerability, Wetlands, Women

052510_0419_Bhutanobser2.jpgJustmean: Over the next 50 years, we will need to face global food and farming realities. We will need to meet the challenges of providing better nutrition for more people in spite of rapid environmental change while cutting back our overuse of natural resources, ecosystems and the climate. All this calls for social innovation in organic farming.

As global temperatures rise and weather patterns become more erratic, the connection between climate change and agriculture is crucial to understanding the role agriculture plays in contributing to and mitigating global warming. Carbon sequestration (the process of capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide CO2), lower-input of fossil fuel dependent resources and use of renewable energy—all are opportunities for organic agriculture to lead the way in reducing energy consumption and reducing the negative effects of energy emissions.

One place in the world which has cottoned to this is the Kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas. It plans to become the first country in the world to turn its agriculture completely organic, banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides, and relying on its own animals and farm waste for fertilizers. It’s going back to basics and traditional farming methods.

This decision to go organic is practical, as agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80 per cent of its population. The farming chemicals used in its mountainous terrain trickles down and impacts the water supply and plants. Moreover, traditional farming suits this largely Buddhists nation, which believes in living in harmony with nature. However, going organic is a decision that will take time to implement, as it will need to be implemented region-by-region and crop-by-crop.

Bhutan’s future depends largely on how it responds to interlinked development challenges like climate change, and food and energy security. It would like to be self-sufficient in food. However, like the rest of the world it is facing common development issues such as youth reluctant to live and work on farms, instead migrating to neighbouring emerging economies. Plus, with its population increasing, there will be the knock on effects of consumerism. And organic farming is thought to reduce the size of crops because it is more susceptible to pests. Moreover, climate change and unpredictable weather has left many local farmers here wondering if they can actually farm without chemicals, as currently, many rely on fertilizers to produce strong yields.

It has been proven that organic farming provides management practices that can help farmers adapt to climate change through strengthening agro-ecosystems, diversifying crop and livestock production and building farmers’ knowledge base to best prevent and confront changes in climate. According to a 2010 survey by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, there are a total of 1.6 million organic producers; more than three quarters of the producers are located in developing and transition countries. The country with the most producers is India, followed by Uganda and Mexico. Bhutan hopes to be among the leaders in the near future.

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Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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