Making rural communities stronger

pema thinley
Pema Thinley proudly displays some of his carpentry work. Photo Sonam Tsoki Tenzin @UNDP Bhutan

Pema Thinley at 23, never thought he would have money to support his small family. Already married with two children and a small time farmer he had no access to cash income. Like other villagers in Digala, Zhemgang he lived in a bamboo shack with banana leaves as a roof. As the seasons changed, he would replace banana leaves to prevent rain leakage. Digala is a small village with a population of 31 households and 178 people.

Highlights

  • Digala is a small village with a population of 31 households and 178 people. It was selected as one of the AGFUND project sites to improve livelihood for rural communities.
  • The ‘Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment of Rural Women’ Project is jointly funded by the Arab Gulf Programme for the United Nations Development (AGFUND) and UNDP.
  • It is implemented by Tarayana Foundation, a local Non-Government Organization in Bhutan.
  • Through this intervention, the community has strengthened the economic and social capacity by generating employment and income creating opportunities in targeted disadvantaged communities.
  • It has also expanded opportunities for the community by improving productivity, diversification and marketing in the agricultural sector and traditional handicrafts industry.
  • It has also establishment micro-saving schemes and exploration of access to micro-financial schemes.

Digala is one of the ‘Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment of Rural Women’ Project is jointly funded by the Arab Gulf programme for the United Nations Development (AGFUND) project sites in Bhutan. It is also one of Bhutan’s most poverty stricken regions in Zhemgang Dzongkhag. The community has no access to road and no electricity. Villagers walk eight hours to the nearest commercial hub to sell and purchase their basic needs. Due to it’s remote location and inaccessibility, it was selected as one of the AGFUND project sites to improve livelihood for rural communities. The project is implemented in partnership with Tarayana Foundation, a local Non-Government Organization in Bhutan.

One of the AGFUND objectives is to alleviate poverty in vulnerable communities. This is achieved through the provision of a small micro-finance scheme to the project beneficiaries. Through this scheme, Pema took a loan to purchase a mule and works as a porter carrying various loads for the current road construction project. He walks his loaded mule three times a week for 5 hours each day to different road sites. He now makes Nu 10,000 (USD 200) per month through rigorous small cash generating business. He uses this money today to purchase basic amenities such as rice, cooking oil, salt and seasonal vegetables for his family. He proudly announces that he has cleared his loan installments and now keeps his entire earnings.

He was additionally trained as a carpenter during the construction of resilient houses in his village through the Tarayana Foundation. Today he lives in a stronger house with corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets for a roof. He feels the AGFUND has given him opportunities he would have never thought possible in his lifetime. At 23, in addition to working as a part time porter, he is also the master carpenter of his village. He has helped his entire village in the construction of their homes.

Today he says “I am lucky and blessed. My family has a home, we have cash and eat better.” He also says once he has saved enough money and the road comes through, he would like to attend a month’s training with the Traditional Handicrafts Centre to add color to his wood work and dreams of opening a small handicrafts shop in Digala.

When asked to describe life before the project intervention, he says people did not have any economic activity. They would grow maize, collect firewood and sustain themselves in this manner. Today he says Digala is dreaming big and people have learned new skills and women are more dynamic and take the lead in several project activities.

Through the project intervention, the community has strengthened the economic and social capacity of rural women by generating employment and income producing opportunities in targeted disadvantaged communities. It has also expanded income generating opportunities for the community by improving productivity, diversification and marketing in the agricultural sector and traditional handicrafts industry. It has also establishment micro-saving schemes and exploration of access to micro-financial schemes.