Bhutan – change comes to the Himalayan Happy Kingdom DW Documentary

bhutan is said to be the place where happiness is at home protected by high mountains in the north and thick jungle in the south the country is the last kingdom in the himalayas the government's top priority is keeping its citizens happy that includes protecting pristine natural environments [Music] the people live according to their traditions yet at the same time are connected to the outside world [Music] online [Music] bhutan is located between two giants china and india nevertheless it's managed to chart its own course our journey begins far away from the capital in the remote eastern part of the country where not much has changed in the last hundred years [Music] six-year-old dorje is facing the biggest challenge in his life so far today he's going to leave his home and [Music] family yeah that was [Music] you can't do it [Music] it's the last morning dorji's mother is going to spend with him before he leaves for the monastery of course i'll miss my son but i don't want to be in the way on his path to finding buddha i'll be sad for a few days then i'll get used to it a decision stands be a good boy behave yourself at the monastery and study hard and eat three meals a day wait i'll help you hold this i don't know what it's like in the monastery there are big buildings in the city it's time to go dorji's journey to his new life as a monk begins his parents and siblings won't see him for more than a year they may not even be able to speak to him before that [Music] dorje has never left his village before he's excited ahead of the three-day trip and his first visit to the capitol [Music] in the northern part of the country it's time to transplant the rice plant by plant the bhutanese staple food is being moved from one patty to another choki a farmer grows a very special crop flowers edible petals for salads risotto or salt mixes the business concept came from switzerland bhutan's virgin soils and pure air should guarantee top level organic quality [Music] we need the whole village to help us transplant all these seedlings from the greenhouse my entire family helps too when the corn flowers and marigolds we've planted here start to bloom then we'll dry the flowers and send them to switzerland i brought this project to our village because it's fun for me to cooperate with young farmers and there's a lot at stake for me my children should be able to live from this tool village is in the middle of bhutan's primeval forest bears leopards tigers and wild boar are a constant threat to the farmers just last year 14 cows were killed while grazing if a tiger bites it leaves behind a toxin so the wound doesn't heal for a long time this wound here is more than a year old but we would never kill a wild animal because that's a major sin in buddhism we need to live with the wilderness and protect our animals and plants as best we can tonight it's choki's father's turn on watch there's a tried and trusted old method that works best to get the wild animals off the rice paddies [Music] is expecting an important visitor and is making the national drink butter tea first the tea then the butter and last the salt [Laughter] advantage in the short term but over a longer period it will make us ill our soils will dry out and lose their nutrients moving to organic is certainly good for our health but we're risking crop failure everything we grow here will be worth more if the village is certified as organic we can get a better price for it [Music] we can use natural means to protect our plants but chokey's optimism is put to the test sooner than expected the plants are dying look this is why ants are eating the roots if we plant them out everything will be infested look get rid of it but it's too late the red ants are already in the field chokey doesn't know what to do but giving up is out of the question i'm going to talk to the local agricultural consultant maybe he has a solution and could you call our partners in switzerland to see if there are natural repellents more than half of all bhutanese work the land like choki the country's goal is to maximize gross national happiness rather than just boost economic growth bhutan is prioritizing the satisfaction of its people maintaining traditional culture and environmental protection every citizen is entitled to free education and medical care seventy percent of bhutan's territory is covered with protected forests it's the only country in the world to bind more co2 than it releases the mountains are also sacred to the bhutanese they're home to some of the world's tallest unconquered peaks this is the liops domain since ancient times these nomads have been herding yaks more than 4500 meters above sea level near the tibetan border twenty-two-year-old sehuang is returning from a long trip and he's bringing the essentials for the coming weeks [Music] here it's men's work to provide the firewood and food the women stay home to care for the yaks because we can't earn any money here we have to go to the bigger villages to [Music] work solar panels are used to generate electricity fires are used for cooking [Music] if he doesn't do well at school he'll have to stay here and work just as hard as we do yaks living in the wild don't eat enough salt so the herders provide it for them salt to keep them strong and increase their milk production there are fewer and fewer yaks because in the warmer climate they become these days mainly by transporting freight with horses and gathering and selling rare herbal mushrooms that only grow here [Music] ce wong loves bollywood music his mobile phone doesn't have reception on the mountainside so before he sets off he always downloads the latest hits entertaining old and young alike [Music] that's enough i need to pack pay still knows the traditional handicrafts and can weave yak wool into fabric to be sold [Music] and i like living here my only problem is that i don't see enough of my husband most of the time my mother grandmother and i are on our own is often away for weeks and i can't even call him on the phone even though he's just come home he's already gone back out to search for mushrooms i hope he finds a lot at least [Music] look that's where i'm going [Music] way up in the mountains i want to come too [Music] you're too little to come along [Music] say wong's in for a long climb the treasured mushrooms only grow way up in the himalayas it'll take him two days just to get there [Music] unlike ce wong many young bhutanese head for the city around 20 percent of the population now lives in the capital pimpu the city is one of the fastest growing in southeast asia the internet and television arrived at pretty much the same time 20 years ago since then bhutan has been changing fast however police still direct the flow of traffic there are no traffic lights dorji is making a stop in thimpu his father wants to buy him a warm jacket there for the monastery [Music] it'll be very cold at the monastery there are no smaller sizes okay we'll take it [Music] in another part of the city dodgy's future abbott lama nam gay is getting ready for the new start of the monastic year he's on a big shopping expedition put that with the rest his budget is tight even though the monastery receives public funding lama namgae is striking a hard bargain how much is the spinach 25. for this when i was young the monks just stayed in the monasteries people visited them and brought them food but it hasn't been that way for quite some time we've got to go shopping here every week the new year starts the day after tomorrow at my monastery around 80 monks are coming back from vacation and we're expecting a lot of new children it's the most hectic time of the year for me you've got to eat less now otherwise it's too expensive what about this please tie that up and we'll meet at the bottom of the path can you see our monastery up there at the top it may snow soon set off so the first load can be put on the horses the pickups loaded and the second one's leaving right away [Music] they've almost finished now the purchases just have to survive being carried up the mountain on horses it's a three-hour climb to the monastery where the rest of the horses i told the men they should start loading the horses but nothing's happened they're not listening to us it's time for lam gay to take charge here's something else good now it's snowing hard up on the mountain near our monastery if we go up now with the horses the snow will soften the load these horses can't go up there anymore today and the other half aren't even here yet i don't know what i should do i need to get up there today to prepare for the monk's arrival it's giving me a headache oh my head so what do i do now la manam gay heads up without the horses okay we're going see you tomorrow the horses are supposed to go up the next day weather permitting they'll arrive just in the nick of time again it's time for a journey back into the past to the valleys of central bhutan where time seems to have stood still [Music] are the children up yes they're up and making breakfast i hope they're making my rice and tea with milk okay now i'm 73 years old and still have to the kids found good jobs in the city and we're still here to look after the farm the children are happy and we are too okay our village is in such a high spot that our cows don't produce enough milk still we take care of them every day and give them quality feed we live from it but it's hard work as long as we're here we'll do it and when we're not around anymore hopefully our children will i hope so too after all these cows paid for their education hey amma drive the cows over here i'll take them out to pasture [Music] the young archers from our village have challenged me to take part in a tournament in the annual festival i think i'll join in again this year i'm worried at your range when you still compete your eyes are really bad you could shoot someone with the arrows no worries i can still do it you're such a bragger this is a very special feather from a bird in our forest when the young archers see this all they're going to say is wow [Music] then i'll put on a metal tip by dipping the point in rubber lacquer and heating [Music] it [Music] what's this old man doing here but i'll show them yeah i need to look good for the festival otherwise they'll say i'm too old that won't interest anyone [Music] tomorrow's the big archery tournament i heard you want to take part yes i do you've kidded around with me long enough i was already gnawing on bones when you were still just drinking milk [Music] winter is coming it's high time to harvest the rice [Music] chocolate too is seeing the first fruit of her labor the farmers have discovered that neem tree oil is a natural tool for warding off the plague of ants they've been spraying their fields with it regularly there are no ants here anymore and over there most of them are gone too the first marigolds are starting to bloom but we're worried because the organic farm inspector is coming from india today to see if we've met all the standards the head of the farmer's group and this is wang chuk she's a part of the team he wants to see which seed you used and what plants you've got growing here and the different substances you treat the plants with he wants to see records of your daily work and then along with that we also have to assess if there is any risk of contamination from the neighbors you understand that yes [Music] first they take soil samples near the neighbor's property line then a few from the middle of the field they mix the samples which are sent to india to be tested for pesticide contamination but then the moment of truth what about the neem oil what you've used now the name formulation is acceptable but before using it it is better that you tell us give us all the details and after we say it is okay you can use it fine so it's a good start so keep keep going i'm really very curious to see the soil test results if the results are positive chokey's farm will be the first eu certified organic farm in all of bhutan on the roof of the world at more than five thousand meters above sea level ceiling is looking for cordyceps mushrooms which are said to have healing properties i needed to take out a 3 000 euro loan to keep us above water for the next half year that money's got to come back in now i hope i find enough [Music] before you could find the fungi everywhere because few people knew of their healing properties now you've got to go up higher to find them everyone here knows how much money you can get for them even people who've long since moved to the city are coming back now because only people who live in the highlands are allowed to gather the mushrooms climate change is also contributing to them becoming more scarce today i'm not going to find anything luck isn't on my side [Music] break time the harvest is small the three caterpillar mushrooms are worth about 15 euros [Music] i found one this is the legendary cordyceps medicinal mushroom beneath the soil the parasitic fungi infests a caterpillar the caterpillar dies and the mushroom grows through onto the surface we harvest this strange mix of caterpillar and fungi that's why there are still young people here [Music] some highlanders can now even afford to take a helicopter taxi to go shopping in the capital thimphu look up [Music] searching in order to pay back that loan little dorji and his father are beginning the last day of their journey they're starting the climb to la manamage's monastery at an altitude of over three thousand meters walk a bit more tell me when you get tired [Music] i'm tired just a little more then i'll carry you [Music] finally after four more hours of hard hiking they reach the monastery [Music] he's really small his legs are sore because he's walked so much come come on in there are friends for you inside [Music] go in there's a stove in there that's better already now you're warm again his feet got cold because of the snow he said he had a headache too then he'll slowly get used to it and find friends it used to be the custom that one child from each family became a monk but in the meantime the remote monasteries are more often a catchment for children from poor families [Music] come on let's sleep yourself okay [Music] sleep now [Music] [Music] profound faith accompanies and guides every act either giving a beloved child to a monastery or even taking part in an archery tournament [Music] a lot can happen during an archery tournament an arrow could easily hit someone that's why we're praying today and giving gifts to the local spirits and gods so that they protect us today the youngsters really don't know how difficult it was back then they've all gone soft i'll show them the target is 145 meters away every archer has two arrows [Music] has taken on a big challenge but it nearly all goes wrong at the start when he has trouble stringing his bow [Music] the knot needs to be smaller the first attempt [Music] wow missed too bad this one will be a bullseye [Music] [Applause] no [Music] and it's high time the youngsters stepped into the spotlight now i think i'll have to leave the stage to them dorje's big day is here the consecration of the monks [Music] it symbolizes the day that buddha left his palace in search of the meaning of life and truth [Music] the change in appearance demonstrates the renunciation of all worldly goods and the beginning of a lifelong inner journey towards enlightenment [Music] now your heads look like watermelons [Music] um [Music] [Music] foreign [Music] i feel different when i see my son as a monk now he's following buddha's path and that makes me happy hey are you still sad but they're not small anymore because their task is not a small one slowly they will learn through buddha's teachings to subordinate their needs to the well-being of all living things starting now dorji's journey is part of our journey [Music] it's finally spring blossoming jacaranda trees decorate punakatsong the most famous monastery in the country nature is recovering from the long dry season a period of waiting is coming to an end for chokey too the organic farming inspectors have given her the go-ahead her way to certification is clear they can start harvesting the flowers today i've learned we've got lots of germs on our hands that we can't see with the naked eye so when we harvest we have to wash our hands very well everyone is excited because we've never done this work before it's the first time it's all blooming yes all flowering just look i see because of the ants we couldn't transplant the corn flowers until late they still haven't blossomed if this project brings the success we hope for our grandchildren will still be working here and living from it future two months later the cornflowers are there and chokie's project has come to full fruition what choki has established is promise for the future during times of change it's worth working hard to make your fortune even in bhutan the place where happiness is at home [Music]