Society, Food and maybe even economics

A Bhutanese healthy food menu alernative A few months back while on a delegation, a colleague and I started talking while travelling and tried relating our experiences to situations back home.

I was very happy this morning to find that an issue that we had discussed then appeared in a paper today; food demand to double by 2030.

My friend had formerly worked in the Ministry of agriculture and had been involved with several research programmes. I was particularly interested with a research project on OAT. I learnt through the conversation that significant research on oat for fodder had been done. The project had distributed the seeds to farmers. I am not quite sure how much benefit this has had at the end of the project but it would be interesting to know. It would also be useful to consider developing an online journal. The Government’s positive orientation towards ICT and enabled services definitely fits well for such a facility. I suspect the information and records that have accumulated over many years from the different projects could prove to be a gold mine for researchers and policy advisers. This is not isolated to agriculture alone but research works as a country. The pool of information could then be used to study the past works and make plans to continue works meaningfully.  I wonder if this could become a part of Government initiative total solutions.

The conversation for me however, condensed in one particular example. The possibility of considering OAT as meals in schools, hospitals and other institutions.

Farmers could be encouraged to cultivate oat and become suppliers. By integration production with an ensured market could prove far more effective than simple subsidy with less reliable market access. This would also allow for inculcating change in dietary habits of Bhutanese by consuming at least one non-rice meal. A managed and controlled change in dietary habit could be part of the solution to our growing list of lifestyle related diseases. This would also be a positive move in bringing down food dependency in general.

When one talks about food, dietary habits are difficult to leave out. Bhutanese today consume more rice from what our parents consumed while they were growing up. In the most fertile parts of the country, a family would consume rice once a day I have been told. Today, along with many things, rice to is cheaper to import and consume. Cheaper rice in itself is not bad and import of food is not necessarily bad but it is the implications it brings with it that maybe bad. I suspect this has led away some farmers from cultivating these crops and also, since it’s cheaper so to the increased consumption. Although mostly identified with urban dwellers, lifestyle diseases are on the rise( and it’s important that these be addressed in a holistic manner.

At a time when public health financing is becoming increasingly challenged, a change in the Bhutanese dietary habit for a more healthy life is not only important but crucial. Food security  and sufficiency challenges need to be addressed in light of the health of the Bhutanese. As an average person, an intervention to change dietary habits with a focus to improve health through a nutrition conscious society seems critical. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise but other common diseases related to diet are already the biggest expenditure heads on the health bill. Economics may still prove beneficial even after that.


About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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One Response to Society, Food and maybe even economics

  1. sonam dema says:

    It is expected that public health expenditure might increase by 70% within next 5 years… one of the causes being life style induced diseases. Definitely, we should improve our diet system, we have better options than sticking to rice, potato and chilly!

    Great article!

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