11th October 2014
The Himalayan nation of Bhutan is set to become the world's first 100% organic country within the next 5-10 years. By then they aspire to be wholly organic in their food production.
Currently 1.5% of the country's agricultural land uses pesticides, which are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. The current government enjoys unified commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilizers and pesticides completely. The progress so far has been good and the current government follows in the footsteps of the previous.
The Kingdom of Bhutan enjoys many nicknames, such as 'Hidden Treasure', 'Mountain Fortress of the Gods', or 'Switzerland of Asia'. It is already the world's leading example on organic living and the country's position in the Himalayas, landlocked by mountains, has helped to safeguard it against modern pollution.
Bhutan has no fossil fuels or nuclear energy, but they sell hydro-electric power, which they have enough surplus of to be the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. It is also the only country that absorbs more Co2 than it lets out.
70% of land in Bhutan is covered by trees, 28% is protected, and 9% is designated as biological corridor. Both Bhutanese and tourists are obliged to help protect the natural environment.
Bhutan has a unique policy of 'high value low impact tourism', and tourists have to pay a daily tariff of around $65 to support the government in projects in education, health, infrastructure and other programmes. Healthcare is completely free for all Bhutanese and foreigners as well.
Tobacco, plastic bags and the killing of endangered species is banned.
The country's motto: "Gross National Happiness is More Important than Gross National Product" is guided by 'four pillars': sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance.
The country is still looking for practical natural solutions to a few pest and disease problems and recently brought together an international panel of organic experts to discuss solutions.
"Farmers get quite excited when they use chemical fertilizers for the first time because they see that they have to do less work, less weeding" but over a longer period of time they see that the soil is destroyed and yields decrease year-to-year, Pema Gyamtsho, the previous Minister of Agriculture and Forests says.
Gyamtsho says that step-by-step approach is important for the success in zero pesticides use: region-by-region, product-by-product. Any moves to eradicate chemicals need to be done on a voluntary basis and it is for the government to demonstrate to the farmers that the benefits of fully organic agriculture outweigh the costs, he explains. Investment into agricultural research as well as support to farmers though the conversion process are important.
The Guardian Newspaper: "Bhutan Could Be World's First Wholly Organic Nation Within a Decade", 12th May 2014
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