In Bhutan, Happiness is Organic

Photography : Eléonore HENRY DE FRAHAN     Texts : Aude RAUX    

Fields belonging to members of the Druk Organic Farmers Cooperative. This farmers’ cooperative was founded in 2011 and has 23 members. They are all committed to organic farming, following a course in organic farming run by the National Organic Program (NOP), provided by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.
Druk organic farm, located in the Punakha district, is a pioneer farm in Bhutan.
Danka Dorji and Jigme Tshering, in charge of running Druk Organic Farm are happy supplying food that respects health and the environment. Even though organic farming requires time and labour.
Since 2008, the farmers of the Druk Organic Farm have grown their vegetables organically. “Reducing greenhouse gasses for agricultural production and reinforcing carbon sequestration, added to the other benefits of biodiversity and environmental services, mean that organic farming is an advantageous growing method, with considerable potential to reduce climate change and adapt to it”. UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Jigme Tshering, 23 ans, pratique la méditation deux fois par jour. Le jeune homme voit le monde avec philosophie : « La méditation est ma seule médecine. Si chacun s’occupait de sa « vie intérieure », le climat ne serait pas déréglé. On se reconnecterait à la nature. Heureusement, nos dirigeants sont conscients qu’il faut préserver notre écosystème ».
A la Druk organic farm, les légumes sont préparés pour le marché hebdomadaire de Thimphu, la capitale du Bhoutan, située à 2h30 de route.
The farmers at Druk Organic Farm don’t use fertiliser, weed killer or pesticides from the petrochemical industry.
La Druk Organic Farm s'étend sur une surface de 2,5 hectares et abrite un troupeau de 10 vaches laitières.
Yuden and Sangay Dorji are members of the Druk Organic Farmers Cooperative. This peasant couple have several plots of red rice.
Red rice, which was imported into Bhutan twenty years ago, has become the staple for the three daily meals.
Over the years, red rice has ousted the traditional buckwheat, barley and mil crops.
Sangay Dorji aide son fils à nouer son Gho, l'habit traditionnel bhoutanais qu'il porte pour se rendre à l'école.
Yuden Dorji, 32 ans, admire la vue depuis la fenêtre de la cuisine de sa maison. Grâce à sa géographie, qui varie entre les plaines subtropicales au sud, situées à 200 mètres d’altitude et les montagnes subalpines au nord, où les sommets culminent à 7570 mètres, le Bhoutan peut tout cultiver.
Sangay Dorji has learnt how to make manure which is used as a natural fertiliser to nourish the soil in his vegetable garden. At night, in its shelter, their cow rests on a bed of ferns that he collects in the forest. To obtain a natural insecticide, he mixes urine and diluted cow’s milk. He weeds manually.
For ten years, Yuden and Sangay Dorji used chemicals to help their vegetables grow. The soil became hard and compact. In 2012, they made the agricultural change. Since then, their land has been soft and easy to dig. They prepare wood on which they will grow the shiitake mushroom.
Chencho is president of the Druk Organic Farmers Cooperative. Roughly 60% of farmers no longer use chemical fertiliser or pesticides.
Sangay Dorji fills a sack with compost from the forest for his vegetable garden.
Selon la croyance bouddhiste, l’homme se doit d’être en harmonie avec la nature. D’où le souhait du Bhoutan, annoncé publiquement en 2012, de vivre d’une agriculture 100 % biologique. Dans cet Etat de l’Himalaya oriental peuplé de 700 000 habitants et enclavé entre la Chine et l’Inde, chaque arbre, chaque rivière, chaque montagne est protégé par des divinités locales.
“Intensive farming, as it involves the use of many chemicals, does not correspond to our Buddhist beliefs, which require that we live in harmony with nature. We like insects and plants to be happy”. Declaration, in 2012, by Pema Gyamtsho, the then Agriculture Minister.
At the Early Learning Center School, a primary school in Thimphu, teaching is based on Gross National Happiness (GDH).
Waste sorting is part of the curriculum at the Early Learning School Center.
Wednesday is the only day when children can bring packaged food. To fight against plastics, the Early Learning School Centre stipulates that, except on Wednesdays, parents must cook home-made meals for their children’s lunch.
Au Early Learning School Center, une école primaire située à Thimphu, les enfants apprennent à vivre en harmonie avec l'environnement.
The offices of the Renewable Natural Resources Research Development Center Yusipang, located 15 kilometres from Thimphu.
Selon Sonam Tashi, maître de conférence au College of Natural Resources (CNR) à Lobesa, dans le district de Punakha, le Bhoutan pourrait parvenir au 100 % bio d’ici à 2025. Parmi les défis à relever pour vivre d’une agriculture 100 % biologique : L’accès à l’eau. Les conflits avec les animaux sauvages (éléphants, sangliers, cerfs). L’exode rural et le manque de main d’oeuvre à venir (l’agriculture emploie 60 % de la population active). L’importation, en grand nombre, d’aliments moins chers, principalement en provenance d’Inde. Et les routes en mauvais état.
The Yusipang Research and Development Center specialises in Forestry and Agriculture. Scientists develop natural techniques to help farmers grow organically and increase their yields, as well as fighting pests efficiently.
Among experiments carried out by researchers and the Research and Development Center Yusipang : wood vinegar (from oak). A natural means of enriching soil and fighting against weeds, pests as well as plant disease.
Les camions, chargés de légumes et de produits laitiers, passent le col de Dochula perché à 3000 mètres. Direction : l’étage des produits locaux du Centenary Farmers Market, le grand marché central de Thimphu, inauguré en 2008.
Bcoop shop, the first organic and locally-sourced shop, opened its doors in 2014 in Thimphu, on the initiative of the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry and in partnership with a private entrepreneur. Through the shop, farmer cooperatives sell their food products to the wealthy classes of Bhutan.
Each week, producers come from all over Bhutan to sell their products at the Centenary Farmers Market, the large central market in Timphu.
Each colour of a Buddhist prayer flag represents an element : yellow is earth, green the forest, blue the sky and water, white is iron and red is fire.
Bhutan's constitution plans for at least 60% of the land to be covered in forest.
Thanks in particular to its forests, which are true wells of carbon and which cover 70% of the land, Bhutan has a negative carbon footprint. In 2012, the kingdom launched a strategy of neutral carbon to follow on their commitments made during COP15 in Copenhagen.
Des phallus en bois sont dressés au milieu des champs pour favoriser la fertilité des sols.
In a shared, 2-hectare field, a group of farmers who converted to organic farming after a course run by the National Organic Program (NOP), weed by hand their vegetable plots. Among these women is Tshering Pelden. She loves working on the land and spending the day in the fresh, pure air.
Ce champ collectif est implanté dans la vallée de Chamkar, situé dans le district du Bumthang, au centre-est du Bhoutan.
Tshering Pelden vend les légumes de son potager dans un abri aménagé le long de la route.
Depuis 2008, un groupe de paysans de la vallée de Chamkar cultive du sarrasin. Ils renouent ainsi avec la culture traditionnelle du blé noir menacée de disparition à cause du changement des habitudes alimentaires. Ici, une femme prépare un plat de nouilles de sarrasin.
Today black wheat is no longer considered a “poor people’s meal”. It is even more expensive than rice due to the laws of supply and demand.
Gaylong, a local agent in charge of development in the Bumthang district, facing climate change, developed a seed bank. The small clay pots contain a dozen or so varieties of buckwheat, wheat, barley, rice etc. Thanks to this seed bank he maintains biodiversity, despite the vagaries of climate.
In the 1970s, the then king launched an extra indicator to GDP. In the constitution, GNH (Gross National Happiness) has four pillars : preserving the environment, renewable and fair socio-economic growth, good governing and finally, keeping traditions alive. This wealth indicator now irrigates the country in its deepest furrows.