In Bhutan, happiness is organic
In 2012 the Kingdom of Bhutan announced its wish to live on 100 % organic agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture at the time, Pema Gyamtsho, declared: «Intensive agriculture, because it implies the use of so many chemicals, is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature. We like to see insects happy and plants happy.» After ploughing dark furrows, by using so many fertilisers, weedkillers and pesticides made from petrochemicals, farmers are gradually committing to the agricultural transition to sustainable food production. Landlocked between two giants, China and India, this country of 700,000 inhabitants had already set itself apart by choosing a development model based not on the measurement of GDP (gross domestic product) but on that of gross national happiness (GNH).
Texts: Aude Raux | Photography: Éléonore Henry de Frahan
Challenges to be met
According to Sonam Tashi, senior lecturer at the College of Natural Resources, «Bhutan could achieve all-organic status by 2025.» Among the challenges to be met is access to water: a country with plenty of rivers, Bhutan produces hydro-electric power, but because of a shortage of funding, it is unable to invest enough in reservoirs, pumps and piping to irrigate its farmland. Other challenges include the poor state of its roads and wild animals (elephants, boar and deer) that cause huge amounts of damage in the fields. Sonam Tashi also mentions the rural exodus. Agriculture employs 60% of the labour force, but young people, more and more of whom now attend school – free of charge – do not want to return to the hard work in the fields after their studies. But organic agriculture requires workers.