Bhutan – from “Gross National Happiness” to a fully organic nation
Legend has it that in 1972, when the World Bank pointed out to the then 17-year-old Fourth King of Bhutan that the majority of his people had to live from less than a dollar per day, the king responded that the happiness of its population was more important than the gross national product of a country. The concept of measuring “Gross National Happiness”, which was then developed by Buddhist and western scientists, has gone on to earn international fame and recognition.
124 variables are used to measure if the psychological, material, spiritual, ecological, social and health conditions are sufficient for both personal and collective wellbeing. Not all variables need to be present for a person to be happy: According to the latest happiness survey in 2015, only 8.8% of the roughly 775,000 Bhutanese considered themselves unhappy, having achieved sufficiency in less than half of the variables, while a total of 47.9% are ‘narrowly happy’, 35% are ‘extensively happy’ and 8.4% of the population are identified as ‘deeply happy’, enjoying sufficiency in 77% or more of the weighted indicators. Despite the country’s poverty, Bhutan holds a top position for happiness in the international ranking.
In 2008, Bhutan’s first freely elected government signed the IAASTD and drew its own conclusions from the report. In 2012, Bhutan’s then Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Pema Gyamtsho, himself a farmer like two-thirds of the population, announced his plan to make the country the first fully organic nation worldwide. Outlining the steps to be taken in a strategy, he stated that initially all farmers would receive knowledge, advice and training. Apart from protecting the environment and the independence of farmers from international agribusiness, Bhutan would aim to promote the export of high quality organic products to neighboring countries to offer better economic perspectives and prevent young people from leaving rural areas.