August 26-27, Thimphu: The SAARC Regional Expert Consultation Meeting on the status and future prospect of organic agriculture for safe food security in SAARC countries was held for the first time in Bhutan. It was jointly organised by the SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Organic Programme (NoP), Department of Agriculture (DoA), Bhutan.
During the two-day consultation meeting, the representatives from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan shared their knowledge, information and future prospects of organic agriculture and safe food security for the times to come.
The Director General for DoA, Mr. Nim Dorji during the opening session said ‘Being very conservative in our policies, Bhutan has always adopted a very cautious approach in using chemical based input and specifically chosen to base agriculture on minimal usage of external inputs’.
It was highlighted that all the non-wood forest products were by default organic. Ms. Kesang Tshomo, the Program Director for NoP while presenting the status of Bhutanese farming said that the farming in Bhutan has always followed traditional systems based on natural resources and indigenous knowledge and therefore majority of the farms were managed organically. ‘It is not long ago that we look back’ said Kesang Tshomo, adding ‘we have more than 95% of all cultivated crops being managed organically’.
Today, lemon grass oil is the only certified organic produce which is exported to Europe and USA.
Currently 64.4% of the population in Bhutan is found to be dependent on agricultural farming for livelihood. Over the years, the use of fertilisers and pesticides has stabilised or are decreasing while the herbicide use is seen increasing due to shortage of labour.
Considering the setbacks, the Director General for DoA said ‘We hope to find solutions to be 100% organic but we need science based trials and results to show that it is economically viable, sustainable, practical user friendly to the people’. He expressed the need of investment in human resources, technology development, sector support and to place high regard to the organic products in the domestic and export markets.
In general, the Regional technical experts meeting shared their knowledge and information among the member countries and also identified the resource strengths in each of the countries so one can borrow technology or seek support from each other supported by the connections created by SAC.
The meeting also provided a very important platform for the SAARC countries to form network and assist each other in development and collaborative actions plans for the future to benefit SAARC countries with common investment in knowledge and capacity building or in research and technology development.
The forum also discussed on the trade and market situations for agriculture, specifically organic products being traded in the region and the various regulations, standards and certifications systems that need to be followed to sell the product.
The closing ceremony was graced by the Agriculture Secretary, Dasho Tenzin Dhendup whereby the participants presented their resolutions from the expert consultation meeting to be implemented in the SAARC countries. The meeting successfully came to an end with presenting of mementos and felicitations.
Reported by Tashi Yangzom with photos by Churamuni Rai, ICS
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