A travel Report from Dr. Thimmaiah, India
I had an opportunity to visit Bhutan from 2nd June to 17th June 2007, on an invitation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Royal Govt. of Bhutan. The purpose of the visit was to train the extension workers of the Agriculture Department in Low-cost Sustainable Agriculture by utilizing the local resources and also to provide a road map to Improve Livelihoods of small and marginal farmers through organic farming in their Tenth Five Year Plan.
Bhutan is predominantly an agrarian economy. More than 70% of the geographical area is forest. The vision 2020 states that Bhutan will maintain 60% of the total area under forest at all times to come. The farming community comprises 79% of the population and amongst them 40% are small and marginal farmers. The farmers who are in remote places have no electricity, housing and basic facilities. Some have to walk for two days to get to the main road head. Due to inaccessibility men (white collared) and machine have not reached these hamlets.
(Photo: Dr. Thimmaiah teaching the Agnihotra fire)
Farming in Bhutan is still traditional with little or no use of external inputs. In 2000 about 1,800 tonnes of fertilizers was used by 30% of the farmers who had access to roads. Bhutanese are staunch Buddhists and follow Ahimsa or non-violence. Killing animals for meat by Buddhists is prohibited in Bhutan. Woefully meat is imported from India and majority of the population eat meat. The religious sentiments are so strong that the farmers do not want to kill the pests rather choose alternative means like use of repellants or antifeedants. Due to these feelings, Organic agriculture could make an easy entry.
Even today, agriculture in Bhutan has similarities to the Vedic system of farming. Sowing dates are based on the planetary positions, prayers are offered to please different deities and receive their blessings before any agriculture activity. Flags commonly called as ‘air flags’ are placed at different points to potentiate their prayers though a medium i.e. air. The farmers still adopt a traditional practice called ‘Jingnse’ wherein the monks visit the farmers and burn wood and other materials and chant prayers. The ash obtained after the ceremony is spread in the field to solve the problems of pests and diseases by farmers even now. This was the connecting link to Homa.
Three training programs with 50 participants each were held at:
a) Regional Centre, Jakar in Bhumtang
b) Regional Centre, Bajo, Wangdue
c) Regional Centre, Yusipang, Thimpu
In all these training programs I had kept a section called as No-cost Inputs in Agriculture where Agnihotra was demonstrated. The film “Rays of Hope” by Mary Lee was shown after a brief talk on Homa before demonstration. The trainees were very much interested and keen to practice Homa themselves. After the demonstration I had a tough time in controlling the crowd who were falling over the pyramid to collect the Agnihotra ash. Thought for a moment, that the next Homa demonstration may warrant police protection! During every demonstration the height of the cow dung cake layer kept on increasing till they could balance themselves – to distribute more ash.
I had taken 20 sets of books and 20 pyramids and all were sold in no time. Few schoolteachers also attended the training. Every school has an agriculture course and the teachers were keen to demonstrate Homa –‘Indian Jingnse’ to their students. The Director General of Agriculture Department who heads the research and extension work in Bhutan will also be performing Agnihotra at his residence. He has agreed upon verbally and has a pyramid with him. Cow dung cakes and ghee have been organized in Bhutan.
The day is not far wherein Bhutan can become one of the active centers in Homa Agriculture with Divine Grace and Will.