Learning about sustainable agriculture

For almost 20 years the Orange campus of firstly the University of Sydney and now Charles Sturt University has been teaching Australian and overseas students about sustainable agriculture.

The course is offered as a post graduate Masters course and students spend 18 months at the campus as internal students although many of the Australian students study it by distance mode. Details of the course can be found at http://futurestudents.csu.edu.au/courses/agricultural-wine-sciences/master-sustainable-agriculture.

The following photo and story provides a brief glimpse into the current cohort.

Masters of Sustainable Agriculture students at Charles Sturt University Orange Campus (October 2018)

Post graduate students from left: Coleman Pombre (New Guinea), Norbuyang (Bhutan), Kahilu Likonge (Zambia), Ishan Dhaka (Nepal), Corey Tatz (Australia), Grace Melambo (Zambia), Jerry Armah (Ghana).

The majority of overseas students studying for the Masters qualification are on United Nation scholarships. They engage in learning about agroecology, managing change, climate change, agricultural economics, and a raft of subjects pertinent to their role as researchers or extension officers in their country. All of the students in the photo presented a coverage of sustainability as it pertained to their country moments before posing for this photo, and one of the stories told will be briefly summarised here. It involves the student second from the left – Norbuyang from Bhutan.

Norbu described his countries attachment to Gross National Happiness which drives decision-making in Bhutan rather than subscribing to Gross National Product, which underpins economic decision making in Australia, and in most other countries.

There are 9 domains of Gross National Happiness and these are based on 4 pillars:
1 Sustainable & Equitable; Socio Economic Development;
2. Good Governance;
3. Promotion of Culture; and,
4. Environmental Preservation.

For an interesting coverage of the history of how Bhutan arrived at the GNH go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zqdqa4YNvI. An important aspect of this is the role the King played in determining the countries values and how he ultimately handed over power to the people to elect their own representatives. The former King now lives a simple life in Bhutan with none of the trappings of a ‘king’.

The values as described in the 9 domains and in the 4 pillars guide decision-making at all levels within Bhutan society and this activity is monitored by the Gross National Happiness Commission and the Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research.

Bhutan has a population of 800,00 and is a mountainous region with significant communication issues. Despite this they managed to get consensus when led by a person who was evidently a strong leader with a vision for his people and country. The question left begging is whether Australia with its 24,000,000 could achieve harmony in this way, or is life in this country simply too complex to achieve consensus! It would appear that the essential ingredient is a visionary leader and a leader who would stay in power long enough to make it happen!

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