Not only does Bhutan stand out from the rest of the world by measuring its Gross National Happiness and by restricting the tourism influx, it is now striving to become the first nation in the world to grow 100% organic whole food.
The nation has an unusual approach to economic development, centred on protecting the environment and focusing on the mental well-being of its citizens, as opposed to the prevalent model elsewhere in the world which sucks the souls of its population by fuelling their never-ending marry-go-round chase of materialistic success. It held a ban on television until 1999 (which, unfortunately, got worse in the new millennium, so maybe that should have held their ground on that), and recently designated a car-free one day of the week in the city centres.
Alright, it is geographically isolated. For more than a thousand years, this tiny speck of land — known by locals as Druk Yul, “land of the thunder dragon” — has survived in splendid isolation, wedged into the mountainous folds between two giants, India and China.
Closed off from the outside world both by geography and deliberate policy, the country had no roads, no electricity, no motor vehicles, no telephones, no postal service – until the 1960s.
With a population of just over 700,000, two-thirds of whom depend on farming in villages dotted around fertile southern plains near India and the soaring Himalayan peaks and deep valleys to the north, it is not the kind of model that can be applied to developed, industrialized, western countries.
Covered in forests, only about 3 percent of the country’s land area is used for growing crops. Chemical use is very low by international standards, with the majority of farmers already organic and reliant on rotting leaves or compost as a natural fertilizer.
Its determination to chart a different path can be seen in its new policy to phase out artificial chemicals in farming in the next 10 years, making its staple foods of wheat and potatoes, as well as its fruits, 100 percent organic.
“Bhutan has decided to go for a green economy in light of the tremendous pressure we are exerting on the planet. If you go for very intensive agriculture it would imply the use of so many chemicals, which is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature.” – officials say.
Another small self-governing nation in the South Pacific, Niue, with a population of only 1,300 is aiming to be 100 percent organic by 2015-2020.
UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says the organic food market and its premium prices are attractive for small countries and territories as they are not competitive on quantity, but they would like to be competitive in quality.
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements report that the global organics market was estimated to be worth $57 billion in 2010. Bhutan exports rare mushrooms to Japan, vegetables to upmarket hotels in Thailand, its highly-prized apples to India and elsewhere, as well as red rice to the United States.