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Forum global sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition • Forum FSN

Re: Forests and trees provide benefits for food security and nutrition – what is your say?

Subhash Mehta
Subhash MehtaDevarao Shivaram TrustIndia


I am saddened at the news of Michelle Gaultier who tirelessly contributed to the e consultations. 

I would like to bring to the table my experiences with the Government of Bhutan over the last decade in the effort to make Bhutan become the first country in the world to fully convert to organic agriculture, ensure the water bodies/ sub soil water is free of pollutants and agro chemicals. 

I had been visiting Bhutan regularly since 2002 on the invitation of the officials of its ministry of agriculture. Subsequent to the meetings I had with the Ministers of Agriculture, senior officials and the Research Institutes during my numerous visits , I was invited in 2007 by the then Prime Minister (also holding charge of agriculture) to bring with me a group of resource persons for holding workshops at research institutes across Bhutan and for senior Ministry officials in Thimphu. The purpose was to facilitate and take forward the Prime Minister’s goal for ‘Bhutan to become the first country in the world to fully convert to organic agriculture, ensure the water bodies/ sub soil water is free of pollutants and agro chemicals’ into a reality. The world of agriculture has a lot to learn from the Government of Bhutan: 

The Honorable Prime Minister inaugurated our Thimphu workshop, June 2007, when I had the honor of sharing the podium with him to release the Organic Policy of Bhutan also declared that one of its research institutes had been converted and dedicated for research on following organic principles in agriculture, to meet the needs of the poor smallholder producers and went on to setting a tentative date of 2020 for Bhutan’s conversion to organic agriculture. 

Very soon the country’s commitment for achieving these objectives was taken forward with the contracting of of Dr A Thimaiah, a PHD from IIT Delhi in Bio Dynamic Agriculture, as consultant, attached to the Ministry. The import and use of chemical pesticides were also banned and following measures and decisions taken for meeting the needs of the rural poor smallholder producers: 

  • create an enabling policy for integrated producer oriented development and research
  • public funds for the rural poor to produce and access nutritious food (self reliance),
  • recognize the importance of natural resources (forest cover, animal husbandry/ wildlife)
  • support rural human and institutional capacity building, funding of producer orgs (PC)
  • aggregating of  programs, schemes, funding, etc., all concerned Ministries/ departments
  • gross national happiness (GNH) of rural communities and long time sustainability 

The following links gives status of this programme:

Worldwide, over a billion people go hungry every day, even more are mal nourished and poverty among the rural smallholder producer communities is of serious concern, as they are getting deep into debt with the yearly increase in costs of external chemical inputs for conventional agriculture,  reducing net incomes/ purchasing power, thus forcing large numbers to commit suicide.

The Bhutan model on organic agriculture should be followed by all developing countries for making ‘Nutritious food being made accessible through integrated agriculture to the world population of about nine billion by 2050. This is possible by focusing on and using public funds to contract the successful farmers in each area for wide replication of their model, setting up producer orgs and staffing them with professionals, thus meeting the needs of the poor rural smallholder communities to follow ‘Integrated Producer Oriented Development (IPOD)’, putting them to work, following the local integrated low cost ecological successful agriculture, producing to meet their own nutritious food needs. This is in contrast to the high cost ‘Market Oriented Development’ system of conventional mono crop agriculture policy of most Governments, NARES, CGIAR, etc., which produces  the quantity of food required, but being high cost is not accessible to the poor (being many times the farm gate price in the retail with shops overflowing with food stocks).

  • The intervention of rural producer orgs/ company (PC) set up by rural producers (mostly  following the local integrated agriculture) but staffed with professionals, to take over all responsibilities and manage risks, other than on farm activities of their members will ensure:
  • creating of human and institutional capacity
  • providing the required management, 
  • encouraging natural regeneration, planting of trees and other forest plants as a source of nutritious food, fodder for livestock,
  • production of inputs and biogas,
  • recharging of subsoil water for drinking and agricultural lands, by protecting catchments, on farm water harvesting, production of nutritious food, bio gas, fibre/ fuel (animal droppings and bio mass for production of low cost inputs),
  • primary and secondary value addition to increase shelf life of produce for storage till prices peak, thus minimizing post harvest losses, etc.

This would reduce cost of production, deforestation, degrading ecosystems, hunger, Mal nutrition, poverty, effects of climate change, etc., whilst ensuring livelihood improvement of forest-dwellers, tribal’s and the smallholder rural communities, water and nutritious food security and improving livelihood, net income and purchasing power:

Link provided by you to FAO's publication on Forests for Improved Nutrition and Food Security has most of the required evidence.