Gardening the Bhutanese Way

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Celebrating Earth Day-Hear Mother Earth's message to all...



Wondering what the Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day is all about? Well, spare some time and get to hear what message our Mother Earth has in store for us. Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22nd to remind each of us that the earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance (source: Greening The Blue).


To begin with, our attempt in celebrating the big day need not be grand. Some very simple and small gestures of ours towards the earth can sum it all up. In line with it, get to know what small gestures we did to mark the important day

As an act of due reverence to the Mother Earth and to take a step closer to Bhutan's vision to Produce Zero Waste by 2030, a multiple stakeholder came to celebrate the International Mother Earth Day on 22nd April, 2018. The HOTEL SIX SENSES BHUTAN, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, the Bondey Institute of Hospitality Management, the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECD), Shari, and the villagers of the would-be eco-village, Damchena in unison observed the Earth Day. 


The day was observed with the Vision hinging on "Zero Tolerance to Plastic".  A deep sense of gratitude to the dynamic leaders for the gift of the constitutional mandate on environmental conservation as well as the unique developmental philosophy of Gross Nation Happiness, which acts as the guiding principle in Bhutan's pursuit to growth and development in all its sphere.

Bhutan has also pledged to remain carbon neutral for all time. Its carbon negative status at the moment knit closely with around 72% of  its total area under forest cover  rides smoothly on the constitutional mandate of maintaining 60% of the total area under forest cover for all times to come. This coupled with its mission of going Fully Organic has tagged the small Himalayan kingdom with a uniqueness in its own sense despite it being a speck among giants. The lush green valleys; ridges and mountains adorned  with trees and shrubs of all kinds; and a pristine environment is all what it has in offer.
Nevertheless, the trend of globalization is setting in gradually. Waste and plastic litter is seen as a huge hazard to the pristine nature. If not acted wisely to nib the trouble at bud stage then trying to manage the situation at a later stage will not be worth it. If we not make efforts to manage waste today, tomorrow might be too late.

What marked the Big Day at Damchena village?

The day began with the birds chirping their soothing hymn amid the nearby woods as they gleefully bid farewell to the enveloping dusk.  Cattle in their sheds mooed as the bright sun rays peeped over the valley hilltop and comforted their furry cladding. As the rays descended further down the valley, everything swung into motion- children played in excitement; adults brewed tea and breakfast; a few vehicles roared over the uneven road, ferrying people and materials required for the big event.

People started assembling in the natural comfy provided by the lush green pasture. Banners for the big event hung from apple trees. The trees with its first flush of leaves and protruding buds seemed to have assumed its tedious work for the season after months of hibernation. Wooden tables stretched across to enable the display of various healthy food items: pine needle juice fortified with honey and lemon; wild mint flavored lemon juice, quinoa seasoned with fresh mint leaves and other ingredients; steamed asparagus; wild fern neatly glued by cheese, dried kale leaves, sliced and dried beet root, carrot, sweet potato, and  black and white sesame cake.

The villagers in particular were keen to try making various juices at home aftermath the event. They remarked, 'These plants have been growing over here for ages. We just didn't know how to make use of it'.

The event reeled in harmonious balance with nature: the entire celebration in the backdrop of the evergreen trees swinging to the tune of the gentle breeze; while the azure blue sky augmented the aesthetic essence in the firmament above; grannies and grandpas capped in grey hair plodded in while kids caroled at top velocity as if springs were attached to their heels;  cattle and horses grazing crazily over the freshly sprung pastures came in for the celebration; dogs tirelessly wagged their bushy tail in anticipation of the event, their eyes fixated on what was lying over the table; while hens raced in to be part of the gracious occasion- knowing that the event is crucial for their daily sustenance as well as for their future generations to come. And together, we celebrated the grand day, the International Mother Earth Day.

The guest from Six Senses Bhutan graced the occasion- his introduction on the event with emphasis on the vision of Zero Tolerance to Plastic was remarkable. The theme of 'Growing with Six Senses' implied very much to the children attending the program as well as the villagers.  Advocating on the proper management of plastic wastes to the children at a very young age is viewed as a tactful means of rooting up of problems associated with waste at infancy stage. This would inculcate  in the young minds a sense of awareness so that they cautiously deal with problems at the later stage of their lives.

The children of Shari ECCD was the epitome of the event. Their shrill and sharp voices on Plastic waste reduction and management echoed through the valley. Their messages were clear, "  Say No To Plastic; 3 Rs of Waste- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and Don't Throw Plastic in the River" said it all.

The rural folks could also grow with Six Senses. This is evident from the concept of 'Farm to Table', which Six Senses is adopting to help rural communities generate income and alleviate poverty. This is what exactly is happening at the Damchena Eco-Village.

The ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Agriculture Research and Development Center, Yusipang in particular and the Six Senses Bhutan is in the process of molding the village- with more than 17 acres of the village farmland registered organic. Exploring organic means of growing fruits, vegetables and herbs, flowers and other horticultural products that would find the ultimate shelf at the Six Senses Bhutan is heart-thrilling.

Organic crops could not only fetch premium for the producers but the greatest contribution would be the utmost care and respect rendered to the mother Earth. This will ensure that we don't compromise the health of our soils and its capacity to nurture us for generations to come while working towards food and nutrition security. With technical and input support from the research center in close collaboration with the Six Senses Bhutan, we aspire to develop this model Eco-Village, which might find its replica in the years to come elsewhere.

In aligning with the Farm to Table concept, the team also prepared land and sowed the seeds of super foods like Quinoa and Chia along with herbs like fennel, lettuces, parsley, chocolate mint, etc.
The ministry would also like to applaud on the initiative and role-model Six Senses Bhutan is setting by way of bridging the wide gap existing between production and marketing. This will be a realistic approach to 'The farm/garden to table' concept.

Many a times, all the hard work the Bhutanese farmers endure to produce various cash crops  goes in vain. All the days hard toil on small, fragmented farmland with minimal feasibility of mechanization, and no assured market leaves the farmers deprived of motivation to proceed further. On top of that, safer, healthier  produces from the mountains stand no match with the chemical-laden imported produce in the market, as price dictates everything. This is the biggest disgrace to the hard working small scale farm holders.
However, with the produce being directly linked to the Six Senses Bhutan, this will act as the greatest incentive for the farmers to produce more. The way of growing high value, nutrition-laden super foods as dictated by ultimate market will also contribute immensely towards meeting the daily nutritional intake of the farming community itself.

Hopefully but gradually, the Bhutanese farming community will find a way of blending their traditional food habit with that of the nutritious super foods. This will also enhance nutrition security as Bhutanese diet at the moment is carbohydrate-rich and lacks diversity and other essential nutrients. The growth of high end consumers like Six Senses, stretched across the country as well as other similar hotels could boost the production of high value crops by acting as the ultimate sink of the farm produces.

All in all, let's eat healthy, live healthy and promote healthy way of living by saying 'No To Plastics' and enriching our gardens with super plants so that we have nutritious foods on the table. Together, we shall find a way of saying Plastics are our greatest enemies for it indiscriminately pollutes our soils, dwindling its capacity to produce to the optimum and sustain billions of lives on it. Let's all grow together, healthier, cleaner, greener and happier but without compromising the health of our mother Earth. Please help us spread our love and message for our Mother Earth.

Some images as the memento of the Earth Day, 2018.
Super-foods in display

Villagers of Damchena Village
Message on the earth Day from the children of Shari ECCD
Nursery Raising of Chia seeds

 Sowing of Quinoa Seeds















Children bidding Goodbye after the program

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