Reforms in agriculture outlinedBhutan is on course to phase out all harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides completely from the country and a “major focus” will be on going organic. The official overtone was added to the move yesterday by the newly launched economic development policy (EDP).
The EDP will be the principal directive to foster economic development and the path for the agriculture ministry is drawn to go completely organic and brand Bhutan as an organic country, the need for which has been repeatedly endorsed by the prime minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley.
With more than 75% of the population engaged in agriculture and majority of the Bhutanese poor located in rural pockets, the role of the sector is deemed crucial to achieving a balanced and equitable development as well as to help alleviate poverty.
While some clauses of EDP reflect the ruling party’s manifesto like the one-gewog-three-products concept, others outline specific targets encompassing all sectors under agriculture ministry.
The long awaited policy says the farming sector needs to be mechanized, with focus on high-value products such as new varieties or organic vegetables, fruits, herbal, floriculture and medicinal plants.
To go organic, the government will explore and implement viable alternative farming methods, encourage commercial farming, and brand Bhutan for high quality organic agriculture produce. Such measures “will promote Bhutan as an organic brand,” said economics affairs minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk.
Emphasis will also be to reduce the cost of production and in its pursuance the government will enable provisions for integrated rural services through one-stop farmer services to reduce time and conserve resources.
A special priority will be to adopt new farming techniques so that farmers will be able to compete with the agriculture produce from India and the region.
Farming will be facilitated with efficient irrigation systems that will be available throughout the country. The government will also identify suitable crops for commercial farming in each geog by conducting field research on farmlands.
To further develop the sector, it will push for more of dairy farming, poultry, fishery, piggery, bee-keeping, growing vegetables and mushroom cultivation.
Feed and fodder resources will be developed, the EDP says, and land for large-scale commercial farming will be made available wherever it is sustainable.
The concept of one-geog-three-products will also be developed and implemented and will establish marketing outlets to support agro-based cottage and small industries (CSIs) and identify prime agriculture land and preserve it.
The government will also encourage bio-exploration and bio-prospecting and cooperatives, crop insurance and credit.