Bhutan goes organic……By banning the sales of pesticides and herbicides Bhutan has outlined a clear path for the future of its agriculture: it will become the first wholly organic country in the world.
Bhutan was already largely organic, but the recent decision announced at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013 aims to make it possible for the tiny Himalayan country to cut the last bond with dangerous agricultural chemicals.
The goal is not only to go organic, but to grow more food as well. Bhutan aims to achieve this with a region-by-region and crop-by-crop approach. At the same time it will study and introduce new methods of growing traditional crops in order to increase yields.
This will set an example to show how ecological farming, which organic farming falls under, is a valid alternative to industrial agriculture when it comes to increasing food production. The only hurdle is in the consistency of investment, which ecological farming lacks when compared with the financial resources industrial farming attracts.
But apart from the higher yields, an added benefit is the boost to Bhutan's export potential as the country tries to increase organic foods exports to neighboring China and India, where the demand for organic produce is on the rise. It makes business sense!
Bhutan already has an important record to be proud of: it is a carbon neutral country and food secure while also being able to guarantee water and electricity supplies to more than 95% of its population.
It is now making the next step to become 100% organic, not only for practical reasons to grow more food, but also from philosophical point of view to protect the environment.
"Hopefully we can provide solutions. What is at stake is the future. We need governments who can make bold decisions now rather than later," Agriculture Minister Pema Gyamtsho said in an interview.
The small country in the eastern end of the Himalayas is not new to taking a lead role on issues around the environment and sustainability.
In 1971 Bhutan set a new concept for measuring progress. Rather than using the amount of goods and services produced by the country (known as Gross Domestic Product or GDP) it implemented a new measure and criteria known as Gross National Happiness or GNH.
This measures the spiritual, physical, social and environmental wellbeing of its inhabitants and territory. This type of development model has been discussed at the UN and has been publicly backed by leaders from Britain and France.
The latest move by Bhutan to ban the sales of pesticides and herbicides is testament to the country's leading environmental stance: these chemicals are petrol based and their residues end up in the food we eat and damage the soil and the water quality.
So what are we waiting for? While Bhutan is small and its agriculture scale rather limited, from a global perspective we can still learn from its approach.
The move to turn 100% organic is prompted by farmers becoming convinced that they need to work in harmony with nature. This idea that we need to work with nature is a central aspect of farming that we seem to forget and which should be put at the core of agriculture.
Let the world learn from Bhutan … once again!