Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hazelnuts: The Answer to Farmers and Economy of Bhutan?

Bhutan is a very mysterious country and it is most of the time out of the international media headlines. However, I have a long term interest about the country because first of all, it is my neighboring country and secondly I am very interested and passionate about anything related to South Asia and its economy. If you search about Bhutanese economy in Google or even Wikipedia, you will find hardly any information. Well, the problem is that modernization in Bhutan has not taken place that much. Only now, it is gradually becoming a modern country. It is behind neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh when it comes to modernization and information but I have to admit that Bhutan is one of the most peaceful countries on earth.

Today I found an interesting report about agriculture in Bhutan. It is about hazelnut cultivation in the country. In fact, 20,000 hectors of land will be brought under hazelnut cultivation. If you know about hazelnut then you should know that it is a lucrative cash crop and its production is limited to only a few countries. Hazelnut is extensively used in confectionary items and these days, many people in the Western countries are interested about it because of its health benefits. The main point of this report is that Bhutanese farmers have been cultivating the same crops over and over again and they are also grazing their animals in the same land and thus the land has lost its quality. It is a common problem in many third world countries and I am happy that Bhutanese government has come forward in working with a private company called Sage Partner Limited in helping the farmers. Of course, the main goal it to make profit and still, I am very happy for this kind of initiative.

The cultivation will start from 2010 and the project is going to start very soon. In the west part of the country, the plantation will be carried out mainly but land from the whole country will be brought under project. It is a project worth of US $30 million and it has its benefits and challenges.

I feel that there are some benefits of the project. The first and immediate benefit that I can see is that it will ensure better utilization of land. One good aspect of the country is that its population is not that much and it still has some barren land. So, utilization of land is very important in the country. Utilization of land will result into bringing more money for the farmers and the government will also get some more revenue.

Hazelnuts will be exported and thus it will help the government to get some foreign currency. Here, I like to inform you that the main aspect of Bhutanese economy is that most people are farmers and they are dependant on their land. The country’s economy is totally dependant on agriculture, tourism and hydro electricity export. So, if hazelnuts are exported then it will also contribute in improving the life of the common people. I am also happy for another thing. This is perhaps for the first time a new approach of cultivation has been taken into consideration in Bhutan.

I am worried for certain things. First of all, it is a very large project in Bhutan. So, if it fails then its implication will be some disaster. Secondly, the farmers of Bhutan do not have any idea about hazelnut cultivation. So, it will be a challenging thing for them to do it properly. One thing that makes me worried a lot is the fact that if the project fails then many farmers will loss their hope about modernization of farming. Of course, the rate of education is not very high in the rural area and that is why; the farmers are still reluctant about modern techniques of agriculture farming.

Well, I feel that modernization is a must for Bhutan. If the country wants to improve its condition then only modernization of farming can bring the best result.

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