Bolivia wants to duplicate Bhutan’s happiness index

October 24, 2013


Bhutanese agricultural experts visiting Bolivia

World Bank

  • Eight Bhutanese agricultural experts visited Bolivia to learn about quinoa and other Andean crops.
  • Both countries are mainly agricultural and face similar problems, despite the distance separating them.
  • Bolivia is one of the region’s most active countries in south-south cooperation.

The Kingdom Bhutan has an area of just 38,000 square kilometers and is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. For more than 40 years, besides using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure growth, the country has employed the indices of Gross National Happiness and Gross Domestic Happiness to measure the quality of life of its citizens.

This “happiness index” is based on psychological and cultural criteria and applies both objective and subjective indicators. The preservation and promotion of cultural values, environmental conservation and good governance are among the pillars of this gauge of well-being.

During this initial visit, Bhutanese experts exchanged experiences on agricultural techniques with the mountainous South American country and wanted to learn about Andean crops such as quinoa, potato, oca, maize, wheat and vegetables. The experts also informed Bolivian officials on the happiness index, which is used only in Bhutan.

G.B. Chettri, the leader of the Bhutanese mission and senior agricultural advisor to the Bhutanese government, expressed his desire to take quinoa to his country and to learn about growing this grain-like crop.

 “As a mountainous country, Bhutan, like Bolivia, faces a series of agricultural challenges. It has high production costs, depends heavily on crop irrigation, has inadequate technical infrastructure and must expand and improve its market integration,” said Chettri.

Seven of every 10 inhabitants of this nation of 750,000 work in mountain agriculture, in a territory composed mainly of forests.

The agricultural knowledge exchange between countries with similar geography, climate and cultivation systems enables experts to take advantage of experiences and lessons learned. The Bhutanese team also visited Peru and Mexico to exchange information with specialized agricultural research centers and genetic resource and seed improvement centers.

South-south exchanges

South-south exchanges help strengthen agroforestry research and development ties among governments. Bolivia has organized several exchanges with countries such as Palestine, Kenya and Indonesia, as well as with South American countries, with which it has identified more similarities than differences in agriculture, economics and other areas.

Bhutan’s current emphasis on agricultural and forestry development is based on a humanistic policy in which the well-being and happiness of individuals take precedence over economic interests.

In the next few weeks, another Bhutanese delegation will visit Bolivia to share information about the country’s “happiness policy” with Bolivian officials.

 “In the framework of “living well” and of the policies to achieve increased well-being in harmony with nature, we believe we can greatly benefit from this cultural and academic exchange. We should not only adopt the philosophical position of “living well” but should also implement public policies based on this concept,” said Bolivia’s Development Planning Minister Viviana Caro during the visit of the Bhutanese mission.