Catch­ing The Bull By The Tail

Business Bhutan - - Editoria - YESHEY DORJI The writer is a Char­ter Mem­ber of the Ro­tary Club of Thim­phu and an ar­dent blog­ger.

Bhutan’s lat­est Na­tional For­est In­ven­tory Re­port states that 71% of our land is un­der for­est cover - rest are taken up by shift­ing cul­ti­va­tion, for­est plan­ta­tion, hor­ti­cul­ture, pas­ture land, agri­cul­ture and hu­man set­tle­ment. What is re­veal­ing is that only 5.5% of our to­tal land mass is un­der agri­cul­ture farm­ing. Small won­der than that we suf­fer from food in­suf­fi­ciency.

But it does not have to be this way. Bhutan has phe­nom­e­nal cli­matic vari­a­tion. Our stag­ger­ing al­ti­tu­di­nal range is un­matched - from 97 Mtrs. at the low­est point to 7,570 Mtrs. at the high­est point. Add to that our wa­ter re­sources, which is among the high­est in the world. All these con­di­tions go to en­dow us with the most ideal con­di­tions for agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion. Our good for­tune does not stop here.

Bhutan is lo­cated bang in the mid­dle of the world’s three most hun­gry na­tions - China to the North, In­dia to the South and Bangladesh to the East. These na­tions’ con­sump­tive pow­ers are in­ex­haustible - they col­lec­tively rep­re­sent the big­gest mar­ket for food!

And yet, we keep talk­ing of hy­dro­elec­tric­ity at 60% loan money bor­rowed at 10% in­ter­est. What are we, DUMB?

We have the land, we have the wa­ter re­courses, farm­ing and farm work is in our blood – and yet agri­cul­ture sec­tor re­mains ne­glected - to the point that we can­not even pro­duce enough chilies that we eat for break­fast, lunch, snacks and din­ner, on a daily ba­sis. A coun­try that iden­ti­fies it­self with Emma Datsi does not grow enough chilies that we need to im­port the ar­senic-rid­den va­ri­ety from across the bor­der.

But Ro­tary Club of Thim­phu is do­ing some­thing about it. We have taken on agri­cul­ture as one of the three ar­eas of our fo­cus. We believe that agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion is key to devel­op­ment and eco­nomic progress. Thus we have been sup­port­ing ru­ral farm­ers with farm ma­chin­ery, so­lar fenc­ing, green houses etc. - to en­cour­age agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion.

The gov­ern­ment has got the bull by the tail - we do not need to teach farm­ing to the famers - what help they need is in mar­ket­ing, distribution, stor­age, post har­vest pro­cess­ing - pri­mar­ily to be able to sell what they grow. Grow­ing comes nat­u­rally to our farm­ers. They are ham­pered by lack of ca­pa­bil­ity to mar­ket, trans­port, store, dis­trib­ute, and pack­age their pro­duces. Once we as­sure them those --- the farm­ers will grow abun­dantly.

We no longer need to place our rivers un­der bondage - as col­lat­er­als for ill-con­ceived and poorly im­ple­mented hy­dropower projects on bor­rowed money at 10% in­ter­est.

We DO NOT NEED 10,000 MW of hy­dro­elec­tric­ity. We are a coun­try of less that 800,000 peo­ple that is not even the pop­u­la­tion of a small gully in sub­ur­ban Shang­hai. What we do NEED is 10 hard­work­ing peo­ple who care enough to work hard at solv­ing 20 small prob­lems. We can do with­out those 1,000 peo­ple who think big and talk big and plan big - but achieve ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

It is about time that we learnt to fo­cus at solv­ing our small prob­lems - the big ones will fall into place.

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