Author: Clarissa Wei | Published: October 5, 2016
Located on the eastern side of the Himalayas, Bhutan is a tiny country with a population of around 750,000 people. It is known for being one of the happiest nations in the world, and the government puts a heavy emphasis on its unique Gross National Happiness metric, which measures progress through the spiritual, physical, social, and environmental health of its citizens.
It is also the first country in the world on track to becoming 100-percent organic.
For the 14,824-square-mile nation, going entirely organic was not that far of a stretch. The majority of food already comes from small farmers, and agriculture in the country never required much in the way of inputs. It wasn’t until the 1980s when synthetic agro-chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides were introduced that things began to change.
In 2011, the country decided to phase out those chemicals. Their goal: to make the entire country’s agricultural system organic by 2020.
The man behind that transition was Dr. Appachanda Thimmaiah. Thimmaiah is currently the associate professor of sustainable living at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, and from 2008 to 2013 he served as the organic agriculture consultant to Bhutan.
He literally wrote the book on Bhutanese organic certification, so we called him up to talk about his plan for Bhutan and if such a strategy could be applied to the States.
Spoiler alert: The secret is cow piss.
MUNCHIES: So, how did you get invited to Bhutan?
Appachanda Thimmaiah: I have a consultancy company in India. We were the first consultancy company in biodynamic agriculture in India and we were the first to develop large agricultural projects transitioning to organic agriculture. The Bhutanese government wanted to see large successful projects in organic agriculture. I invited them to India and showed them some of my projects and after that, they sent a group of 30 officials from the government to get training for a week. A week training program doesn’t give you the entire experience. Then they were looking for somebody to come help them for organic agriculture development and I was chosen by the ministry of agriculture as a consultant. It was funded by a couple of NGOs and eventually my work was for two years.