ABC Net: The small, landlocked country of Bhutan is aiming to increase its national happiness by becoming the first country in the world to completely shift to organic farming. About 80 per cent of Bhutan’s 800,000 residents depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
The country plans to use the organic status, which it hopes to achieve by 2020, as an export marketing strategy.
But co-ordinator of the national organic program, Kesang Tshomo, says the main impetus was to further promote the government’s goal of gross national happiness, or GNH. “For the country which adopts and lives GNH, organic farming is the only way to farm,” she said.
“Organic farming also considers, health conservation, justice and biodiversity and all of this is a part of GNH has well. “GNH looks at not only the economic value, but diversity, the environment, governance and health.
“All of these are so similar it’s almost identical.”
Ms Tshomo said because pesticide use is already very low in Bhutan, she doesn’t think the transition will be too difficult to achieve.
But she said the shift to organic systems will be slower in certain cash crops like potatoes, citrus and apples. “In our strategy we have identified that there may be some core food crops which will be the last on the list to be converted,” she said.
“The government wants to focus more on research and development to find alternatives [to pesticides].” While Ms Tshomo says that in more developed countries the shift to organic production may result in lower yields, that hasn’t been Bhutan’s experience.
“In the last ten years of observation we haven’t seen a decline in yield,” she said.
“In fact, in the second and third year, the yields have increased and the soil quality has improved.”
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