Local level trainings influence 11th Five Year Plans

Local leaders group work
©UNDP Bhutan 2012 Local leaders participate at identifying appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures.

To integrate a bottom-up approach, and to recognize the importance of localized insight, towards the design of its 11th National Development Plan, the RGoB's Department of Local Governance (DLG) and the Environment, Climate Change and Poverty Mainstreaming Reference Group (MRG) initiated a sensitization and training in September 2012, all across the country.

Highlights of the local training

  • The training took place in all 20 districts, with the participation of 108 officials, and 20% women representation.
  • 69% of the Bhutanese population remains rural based, subsisting on an integrated farming system of crop production, livestock rearing and use of natural resources for their livelihood.
  • Climate change problems are faced across the country, and impacts from regional environmental issues are felt everywhere.
  • Target participants included elected leaders (Gups, Mangmis, Tshogpas), Gewog Administrative Officers, Renewable Natural Resource extension staffs, the heads of educational and health centres, including the Non-Formal Education instructors, and selected community members.

The training focused on identifying key environment, climate change and poverty concerns and opportunities, and on formulating interventions which could be implemented into the 11th Five Year Plan programme. The training took place in all 20 districts, with the participation of 108 officials, and 20% women representation. It proved very timely, and provided an opportunity for district officials to re-align their draft plans to include environment and climate change vulnerability, which will have long term impacts in sustaining development outcomes at the local level. Outputs from the district exercise were compiled into a mainstreaming framework document for both the districts and gewogs, and will serve as a reference guide for annual work planning during the implementation of the 11th Plan from July 2013, demonstrating a commitment to local insight, and a bottom-up approach from the RGoB.

In Bhutan, adaptable and localized solutions remain essential.  The majority of the Bhutanese population remains rural based (about 69 per cent), subsisting on an integrated farming system of crop production, livestock rearing and use of natural resources for their livelihood.  They have limited capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. Impacts from these are clearly visible in the crop losses that regularly occur as a result of unpredictable weather conditions in the form of windstorms, early or late frost, late monsoon, flash floods, crop and livestock depredation by wildlife, as well as a series of natural disasters that occurred between 2009 and 2011.

Additionally, in April 2012, the farmers of Bumthang experienced an unusually late frost, which damaged huge areas of potato crops, and in September, the farmers of Chimung village under Pemagatshel district were hit by windstorms that destroyed large tracts of maize field, affecting 115 households.  Problems are faced at the local level across the country, and impacts from regional environmental issues are felt everywhere.  Thus, solutions need to be reached that address localized contexts and concerns.

Local governments, comprising 20 districts and 205 Gewogs (sub-districts), thus have an important role to play in translating the national goals of the 11th Five-Year Plan, the theme of which is "Self Reliance and Inclusive Green Socio-Economic Development." The RGoB therefore continues with its decentralization efforts in order to bring about transformational change to the lives of the rural communities.  LGs need also to be pro-active in recognizing opportunities and emerging challenges of the impacts of environment and climate change on rural livelihood.  Only the LGs have the necessary insight that can help them in identifying appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures, and integrating these into their five year and annual plans.

To support the LGs in this effort, the Department of Local Governance developed a training manual to enhance the capacity of LGs to integrate environment and sustainability issues into their local development plans and programmes. In September of 2012, training for this was rolled out in all the 205 gewogs, which was participated by 3,700 participants, with 28% women representation.  Target participants included gewog elected leaders (Gups, Mangmis, Tshogpas), Gewog Administrative Officers, Renewable Natural Resource extension staffs, the heads of Gewog educational and health centres, including the Non-Formal Education instructors, and selected community members whose participation in community development are prominent. Tshering Chophel, the Senior Programme Officer of the Department, and coordinator of this nation-wide training programme, stated that the "training will help enhance the capacity of LG functionaries to integrate environmental, climate-change and poverty considerations, including opportunities and risks, right from the process of formulation through implementation of development plans and activities at the local level. It will provide LGs the opportunity to make informed inclusion of relevant environmental concerns into the decisions of local institutions that drive local development policy, plans and action."

This effort towards integrating environment and sustainability into plans and programmes by the Local Government clearly reflects the commitment of LG authority to achieve green and inclusive socio-economic development for the 11th Plan period, beginning at the local level, and with a view to influencing planning and policy making at the national level.  Results at the district level are thus being aligned with national aims, with the aim of achieving the RGoB's 16 key result areas and their associated indicators, which include enhancing nutrition and food security, rural household incomes, sustainable forest, land, water and biodiversity management, health and sanitation, disaster preparedness, as well as reducing human/wildlife conflict.  While these goals are put forth nationally, solutions must arise from the local level, and be addressed to regional contexts, as the RGoB has recognized, and seeks to integrate into its planning and problem-solving through its efforts to train and build capacity at the local level.  Through these efforts, responses to these problems will be able to happen more quickly and efficiently, and to be responsive to the needs on the ground.  Solutions, therefore, will be more sustainable, impactful, and long-term.