30 countries in Bhutan to talk shop on Organic Himalaya

Over 30 countries gathered for a conference in Thimphu to strengthen and consolidate international steps towards “Organic Himalaya”, as inspired by Bhutan.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Yeshey Dorji, graced the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) conference on organic and ecological agriculture in mountain eco-systems in Thimphu.

“It is an important event, not only for Bhutan, but for all the mountainous regions as well, as we all share the same common issues in farming, development, social and culture, whether we are in the Himalayas, highlands of Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. Our traditions and culture and socio-economic challenges have preserved most of our pristine environments today,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji.

Under the vision of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has made a commitment to become 100% organic. Lyonpo said Bhutan has always adopted a very cautious approach in using chemical-based input, and specifically chose to base agriculture on minimal usage of external inputs.

The Minister said Bhutan is set on the path of becoming organic, but it must be done in a manner, so as to not hamper the productivity or cause economic loss to farmers. Lyonpo added that it is important that the people who work with the land are confident in organic farming and the outcomes, rather than achieving a 100% label at the cost of the farmer’s livelihood.

“Let us work together, to take this further, by taking stock of what we have and what we can do to spread the needs to make our mountain systems organic. It was our common concern for the mountain eco-systems, which are so fragile and sensitive, yet it feeds

millions of us and it has done so for thousands of years,” he added.

Countries in the Himalayas like, India, Nepal, Bhutan and China have developed their organic agriculture sectors with a focus on mountain regions and many states in the Himalayan region like, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, have already made commitments to go 100% organic.

Mountain eco-systems are fragile and most vulnerable to climate change. While being the water towers of the world, their essential role and eco-systems are seriously threatened by deforestation, soil degradation and erosion, melting and receding of glaciers. They are also centers of high biodiversity and rich cultural diversity. Medicinal plants and nutritious crops from mountain eco-systems are benefitting humanity worldwide.

A total of 105 participants are taking part in the conference, which includes 61 international and 44 local participants. The participants come from diverse

backgrounds such as farmers, agriculturist, scientists, academicians, private sector, development partners, donors, government officials, NGOs, planners and teachers.

The conference is jointly organized by the National Organic Programme (NOP), Department of Agriculture (DoA) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Navdanya (India), Millennium Institute, and IFOAM.

IFOAM has organized many organic conferences around the world. IFOAM represented by its president Andre Leu, and Navdanya lead by Dr Vandana Shiva, are committed to support Bhutan’s organic vision. The Millennium Institute headed by the renowned scientist Dr Hans Rudolf Herren is committed to create links for Bhutan to global agriculture policy setting community.

The NOP is mandated to coordinate and promote organic agriculture development in the country. The conference concludes today.

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