Bhutan Moves Closer To Becoming 100% Organic With National Organic Flagship Programme

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The flagship programme’s Annual Performance Agreement was signed between Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and the Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor on 22 August 2019.

(Source: Unusual Traveler)

 

By Dechen Tshomo Kuensel

Conducting feasibility studies for the establishment of bio-inputs production plants and building infrastructures, certification of organic products are some of the key activities of Bhutan’s National Organic Flagship Programme for the fiscal year 2019-20.

The flagship programme’s Annual Performance Agreement (APA) was signed between Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and the Agriculture and Forests Minister Yeshey Penjor on 22 August 2019.

Main focus of the National Organic Flagship Programme 2019

The main focus of the National Organic Flagship Programme this fiscal year is to enhance the technical capacity of the stakeholders and to put in place an enabling environment.

The government has allocated Nu 1 billion for the organic flagship programme, of which Nu 189.9 million has been earmarked for implementation of the programme in 2019.

The programme will be implemented in 20 dzongkhags (districts) covering crops such as rice, maize, buckwheat, quinoa, asparagus, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, legumes, honey, egg, trout, chugo (hardened yak cheese) and bamboo shoot.

 

Chugo cheese sold in a local provision shop in Haa Valley, Bhutan.

Source: Youtube/Mark Wiens

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, during the signing of the National Organic Flagship Programme’s APA for the fiscal year, urged that all organic activities should be included in the programme.

“Through this, probably we can challenge the revenue that we are generating from hydropower,” the Lyonchhen said.

The programme’s goal is to commercialise organic production for socio-economic development through the sustainable production of safe and nutritious foods. 

Some of the key deliverables for the fiscal year include:

  1. conducting feasibility studies for establishing bio-inputs production plants
  2. marking infrastructures
  3. accreditation of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) as a third-party certification body for carrying out inspection and certification of organic products
  4. employment generation for 100 individuals in the organic sector and the establishment of dedicated organic sale outlets.

Why it has taken a long time to realise the National Organic Flagship Programme

Programme Director with the Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Yusipang, Thimphu, Kesang Tshomo said that while the national organic framework with its vision to make all of Bhutan organic has been in the pipeline for many years, nothing much could be done due to limited human and financial resources.

“The framework was developed in 2008. It has taken this long for us to actually get such a big support. It is not easy. It requires a lot of work,” she said.

The programme aims to sustain the livelihood system through increased organic production, and to increase domestic production of bio-inputs leading to import substitution of agrochemicals.

“Now with this flagship programme, we get the opportunity to finally make a start and actually work towards converting the country into a fully organic nation, slowly, phase-wise,” she added.

Various steps taken to initiate the National Organic Flagship Programme 2019

To kick-start the industry, investment in the different value chain is required. With this flagship programme, it will now be possible to really focus on the major challenges in going organic, which is at both the input and output side.

According to Kesang Tshomo, sometimes not having enough resources in the input side such as organic fertilisers, pesticides, seeds, animal feeds, among others was a challenge for the industry to grow.

 

Source: Youtube/Organic Trade Association

 

“If you need to go organic, we need these organic inputs. When it is not available in the country, farmers cannot go organic.”

In addition, farmers might be willing and are capable of growing organic food but if they lack a place to sell, the objective of the farmers going organic will not be served.

“Because they need to earn money at the end of it. There has to be an economic benefit,” Kesang Tshomo explained.  

There are various measures which need to be in place to ensure that farmers benefit financially such as:

  1. Enhancing organic value chain
  2. Marketing products through private sector engagements
  3. enterprise development and strengthening policy of institution
  4. and a regulatory environment for the organic programme.

“Our target at the end is to have a holistic integrated system where we have the supply system of all the inputs, we have people producing it, trading and marketing them, supplying and distributing inputs not only to organic farmers but also to all farmers in the country,” she said.

While the government invested Nu 1 billion into this programme, we were seriously hoping that by the end of it, we can generate at least three times the value,” she added.

If the programme becomes successful, it will encourage more people to enter this sector and build their own organic farming businesses.

 

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 


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