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Organic agriculture in Bhutan: potential and challenges


The Government of Bhutan, a poor rugged mountainous kingdom in the Himalayas, aims to convert the whole agricultural area to Organic Agriculture (OA) by 2020 in an effort to provoke a substantial increase of productivity and farmers income while preserving the environment. Currently less than 10 % of the agricultural area of Bhutan is in OA production. We analysed the assumptions of the Bhutanese Government cited above from an agronomic perspective. According to our estimates, farmer incomes after conversion will increase only if organic crops will out-yield conventional crops or if farmers can realize higher market prices. Organic yields may partly increase beyond current productivity but may not become as high as in systems using agrochemicals. Under these premises, higher farmer incomes after mass conversion are not likely. The current low agricultural productivity is mainly a result of low soil fertility combined with other system-independent factors such as inadequate input supply, e.g. low quality seeds, lack of techniques and knowledge, inefficient management, labour shortage and poor infrastructure. These problems need to be tackled with integrated approaches, which should include organic management practices such as growing fodder legumes. Integrating more strategies of OA into Bhutanese agriculture is expected to have positive ecological effects. System comparisons between conventional and organic production require more empirical data on the agronomic and economic performances, which are yet to be generated in Bhutan. In addition to trade policies, market and infrastructure development, the organic sector will benefit from a well-resourced Centre of Excellence to focus on research and knowledge transfer.

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Neuhoff, D., Tashi, S., Rahmann, G. et al. Organic agriculture in Bhutan: potential and challenges. Org. Agr. 4, 209–221 (2014).

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  • Conversion
  • Agricultural productivity
  • Soil fertility
  • Constraints