Lured by the intergenerational glitter promised by the dream merchants, thousands upon thousands of farmers across the country abandoned agriculture production in preference to planting hazelnut trees. By no means I am saying that they did something wrong - they did exactly what they were told is in their best interest. Even in the land of GNH, the pursuit of economic gain is at the core of every individual’s endeavor. As I keep reminding every body, we are as unique as everyone else.
This is not to say that the hazelnut project is not good. On the contrary, there are some who believe that this is the “biggest idea” that has come to Bhutan. I too agree! And, it is precisely for this reason that I find it unforgivable that a project this meaningful and transformative has been, as if consciously, allowed to be headed for ruin and destruction.
Hazelnut trees and fruits are not endemic to Bhutan. The Bhutanese people were clueless as to how it grows, when it fruits - they did not even know how the trees or the fruits looked like. And yet the naïve farmers went headlong into the enterprise - based solely on the words and assurances given by the project promoters and their representatives. The fact that the government encouraged and gave its tacit approval further encouraged the farmers into indiscriminate planting of a tree with which they neither had prior experience nor familiarity.
The project people weaned away droves of farmers from their traditional agriculture farm work and goaded them into hazelnut plantation. That is fine - as I said in my earlier post - it was their choice to make.
What is not fine is: WHY DIDN’T THE PROJECT STOP PLANTING FURTHER?
From the initial 6 Dzongkhags (Districts), the project began to invade the rest of the 14 Dzongkhags, even while their trees remained barren of fruits, years past their fruiting age. In the face of the ongoing failure, why did they not stop bringing more and more farmers and farmland into hazelnut plantation?
Why didn’t they direct their energies and funds, in trying to find a solution to the ongoing problem, knowing full well that their inaction would imperil thousands of farmers across the country - farmers to whom they had made promises of riches?
What exactly is the mystery behind embarking on a ceaseless drive to bring more and more farmers and farmlands into new plantations? Does the success of the project hinge on the number of trees planted, rather than on the amount of yield they produced? Is profit accrued to the project - from the number of trees planted rather than the amount of nuts the trees produced, and sold?
Why else would the project focus on planting, rather than on fruiting?
There is a mystery here - a mystery that needs unraveling!