The Bhutanese rural woman turns business around

beneficiary
Kinga Wangmo in her dairy farm where most of her work is carried out. Photo Sonam Tsoki Tenzin @UNDP Bhutan

Bhutanese women are increasingly dominating the rural labor force. Ten years ago, 50 year old Kinga Wangmo, a farmer’s wife and mother of three, may not have imagined herself as the bread earner of the family. The family survived on the little that was harvested from the land that they owned. This was supplemented by the money her husband earned as a wage laborer.

Highlights

  • After joining the cooperative, Kinga earns between Nu. 5000-6000 monthly
  • “We have become self-sufficient and have enough money to send our children to school and look after our elderly family members.”
  • UNDP extended support in 2011 through its Food Security Project to enhance the existing structure of the cooperatives.
  • UNDP provided Nu. 1,606,430.00 (USD 30,000) in 2011 to procure equipment for the remote diary cooperatives in five eastern districts (Trashigang, Pemagatshel, Mongar, Samdrupjonkar, and Trashiyantse).
  • Today cooperatives across Bhutan are being established and farmers especially women are benefiting from these programmes.
  • In July 2012, Bhutan joined the global community to observe the International Day of Cooperatives every July.

Today, Kinga is a member of the Pam Mendey Gonor Gongphel Namley Tshogpa (Pam Community Diary Cooperative) in Trashigang. She is currently earning Nu. 5000 to Nu. 6000 (approximately USD 100-USD 120) every month from the milk she sells to the Cooperative. The money she earns helps pay for her children’s education. Kinga Wangmo says “We have become self-sufficient and have enough money to send our children to school and look after our elderly family members.”

Kinga, is one of many beneficiaries of a project implemented by the Department of Agricultural and Marketing Cooperatives (DAMC) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The cooperatives in Bhutan existed as early as the 1960s but were informal community groups which did not generate income.

Bhutan is trying to revive the cooperatives with the main objective of commercializing farming activities. UNDP extended support in 2011 through the Food Security Project, mainly to enhance the existing structure of the cooperatives. The project was designed to create opportunities for income generation and self-employment in rural areas, and help small farmers and rural women gain a steady income through the formation of self-help groups and cooperatives. The project is scheduled to end in December 2012.

In order to support the DAMC in the implementation of cooperatives, UNDP provided Nu. 1,606,430.00 (USD 30,000) in 2011 to procure equipments for the remote diary cooperatives in five eastern districts (Trashigang, Pemagatshel, Mongar, Samdrupjonkar, and Trashiyantse). The equipments were critical for value addition and marketing of the dairy products. With the dairy equipment (separators and churners) the farmers are able to process milk into butter and cheese in a hygienic manner and fetch higher prices. This not only produced clean and safe products but also saved time in processing compared to the traditional methods.  Additionally, the cold storage facilities like deep freezers have benefited the farmers immensely in increasing the shelf-life of their surplus products during summer season.

In addition UNDP also extended technical expertise by coordinating trainings and orientation to the local farmers in the areas of setting up small businesses, importance of cooperatives, group formation and development strategies. They were also trained in defining by-laws and constitutions for their cooperatives.

Today cooperatives across Bhutan are being established and farmers especially women are benefitting from these programmes. The women say their engagement in cooperatives and farmers groups has given them a sense of independence and confidence. They are able to contribute to the family and household expenses, educate their children and run their daily chores as well. The security of having their own income has empowered these women who never dreamed that their daily chores would turn into income generation activities. In addition working together through cooperatives has proved more profitable for them.

The United Nations proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives and aims to raise public awareness about cooperatives and contribute to socio-economic development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In July 2012, Bhutan joined the global community and committed to observe the International Day of Cooperatives every Saturday in July.