Bhutan’s or­ganic vi­sion im­pos­si­ble in short to mid-term: ICIMOD

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Pema Sel­don

Bhutan’s stated vi­sion to go 100% or­ganic by 2020 will be eas­ier said than done.

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, es­pe­cially given the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in­volved, in­clud­ing the fact that the coun­try cur­rently im­ports about 50% of its food re­quire­ments.

Given the com­pul­sions of en­sur­ing food

se­cu­rity and a de­sire to at­tain im­port sub­sti­tu­tion in agri­cul­ture, this vi­sion de­mands a se­ri­ous reap­praisal, ac­cord­ing to the re­port launched on Wed­nes­day.

“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-term frame­work,” the re­port states.

ICIMOD signed a let­ter of in­tent with 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 so­cioe­co­nomic and cli­mate change in Bhutan.

With the aim of sup­port­ing moun­tain­spe­cific poli­cies and liveli­hood di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and re­silience for moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties, ICIMOD in col­lab­o­ra­tion with MoAF has de­signed a road map in­clud­ing sev­eral lo­cal and na­tional level con­sul­ta­tion, field­work in tar­get ar­eas, and the pro­duc­tion of a com­pre­hen­sive study on the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for or­ganic agri­cul­ture in Bhutan.

Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, 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 fu­el­gen­er­ated fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides and con­trib­ute to en­sur­ing 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 cur­rently 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 the na­tional self-suf­fi­ciency while keep­ing the agri­cul­ture sys­tems largely or­ganic. Although the na­tional or­ganic pro­gram was rec­og­nized and given a pro­gram sta­tus to take up the na­tional or­ganic agenda, it did not have the ad­e­quate re­sources to meet the de­sired goals. It is thus presumed that or­ganic agri­cul­ture re­ceived rel­a­tively lower pri­or­ity in the 11th five year plan which is 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 rec­og­nized as one of the agency key re­sult ar­eas for the MoAF.

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 pri­or­i­tize and fo­cus,” the re­port state.

The or­ganic sec­tor is also be­set with a num­ber of is­sues re­lated to mar­kets and value chains, in­clud­ing lack of ap­pro­pri­ate sup­ply and de­mand side mech­a­nisms such as the rel­a­tively poor qual­ity of or­ganic pro­duce cur­rently avail­able, 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.

The rec­om­men­da­tions from the re­port were to adopt a phased ap­proach over the im­me­di­ate short, medium and long term strate­gies and pri­or­i­ties and it will be pre­sented dur­ing the multi-stake­holder val­i­da­tion work­shop held in Thim­phu in the com­ing week.

Ground­ing the na­tional or­ganic pro­gram through value ad­di­tion, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of lo­cal or­ganic prod­ucts to im­me­di­ately show the ex­ist­ing strength of tra­di­tion­ally or­ganic agri­cul­ture are in­cluded in short term pri­or­i­ties ( five years).

Es­tab­lish­ing a re­search pro­gram to cover se­lected prin­ci­pal crops in pi­lot projects across rel­e­vant agro cli­matic con­texts in the coun­try as a key strat­egy and de­vel­op­ing a com­mon pol­icy for or­ganic agri­cul­ture are some of the few pri­or­i­ties in­cluded in short term.

The medium to long term pri­or­i­ties in­clude the in­te­gra­tion of more holis­tic and broad ap­proaches as a strat­egy for pro­mot­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture. Th­ese ap­proaches in­clude adopt­ing land­scape ap­proaches to plan­ning and im­ple­ment­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture in­ter­ven­tions, ex­plic­itly in­cor­po­rat­ing risk man­age­ment and mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies into or­ganic agri­cul­ture poli­cies and pro­gram­ing.

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