Climate and Disaster Resilient Housing Improvement Programme

The housing improvement programme is Tarayana’s flagship programme aimed at reducing vulnerabilities in the rural communities of Bhutan. Since the inception of the Foundation in 2003, new and improved shelters with home repair and renovations were facilitated through this programme in partnership with various organizations both from abroad and within the country. In order to reduce carbon footprint, these are constructed utilising 70% locally available materials and earthquake resilient techniques are incorporated in the construction process as the country is located in one of the most seismically active zones in the world. Till now, the Foundation has facilitated the construction of 2770 houses enabling thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged families to live dignified and stable lives and empowering them to seek opportunities for a better tomorrow. Additionally, more than 50,000 community members have been trained in construction skills such as carpentry, masonry, etc. enabling them to earn a livelihood through this programme.

In 2021, World Habitat, an international charity organization awarded the Silver Award to the Tarayana Foundation’s Integrated Community Development for Poverty Reduction programme  with a particular focus on its housing programme.

The Programme

The Programme was born out of necessity as most of the villages the Foundation worked in had inadequate shelter which provided them with scant protection from the elements. Without adequate shelter, it was difficult to help the communities help themselves to be productive and aspire towards a better life. Community mobilization and consultations always pointed toward improved housing as a basic necessity that has tangible and intangible emotional, social and cultural benefits; security, stability, greater self-esteem, and a sense of belonging. In addressing this crucial aspect of their aspiration, the Foundation was able to bring about better self-help concepts to fruition; health, hygiene, education, livelihood, and life skills, all started making more sense to the communities after they had accessed better shelter.

Through this programme, the Foundation also facilitates the transfer of skills from master carpenters and masons to interested community members taken on board as apprentices. The community members are not only building a stable durable home for themselves but also, earning extra cash incomes from their newly acquired skills.  

Planning and Consultations

The Secretariat informs the district administration of the programme after which the respective Field Officers liaise with the district authorities to understand the government’s development plans for that year in the selected villages and communities. 

The Programme, as well as Field Officers, spend an appreciable amount of time meeting with the communities, organizing consultative meetings, and Focus Group Discussions to understand the issues and their causes.  Exercises such as resource and dream mapping are done for each village to help identify challenges and opportunities. Possible solutions to the issues are soul-searched and implemented by the communities with Tarayana taking on a facilitation role. Efforts are taken to ensure that local/traditional skills and knowledge are incorporated into the solution package to help preserve the local cultural heritage. 

For the house construction, the community members form groups based on the size of the village and draw lots to see who gets to build the first and prepare a roster that is followed through.

Beneficiary villages are selected based on: 

  • The President’s firsthand experiences of people living in extreme poverty during the rural treks Her Majesty undertook as the then Patron of Agriculture and Environment 

  • National studies such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index, Bhutan Living Standards Survey Report, Poverty Analysis Report, and donor reports. 

  • Requests coming in from the village representatives and Districts 

  • Followed by ground truthing and site visits by our Programme and Field Officers 

For the selection of households in each community, the community members carry out a wealth ranking exercise through which potential beneficiaries are selected jointly. A committee is formed comprising representatives from the local government, community representatives, and Tarayana Field Officer to further verify and select the beneficiaries following the criteria set by the Foundation.

A door-to-door survey is carried out by the committee for physical verification of the beneficiaries identified. The list of beneficiaries approved by the committee is then submitted to the Foundation for support.

Selection of house design 

The house designs are selected by the communities themselves based on the topography, climatic, cultural, and artistic inclinations. The Foundation encourages the community to retain the aesthetics and inherent traditional features in efforts to preserve local cultural identity. The drawings are submitted to the block office, which will check to ensure that the houses meet the standard building requirements and have also incorporated disaster resilience elements before they approve.  

The houses are built with locally available raw materials like mud, stones and timber based on the climatic conditions and the local environment reducing the carbon footprint of the construction. 


A Programme Officer with guidance from the head office will coordinate the project activities from the Secretariat. The role includes liaising with relevant stakeholders, monitoring, and reporting to the donor. The Field Officers will facilitate in availing all the permits required such as land clearance, land demarcation, and timber permits. Most of these processes are alien to the communities we serve, and some could take months to get approval requiring frequent travels to the district headquarters.  The Field Officers spend close to 70% of their time facilitating these processes. Once the activities begin, the Field Officer will monitor the work daily and report monthly to the Secretariat. 

 The Administrative Officer ensures that due diligence is followed in the procurement process and assists with official permits in relation to the project. The Finance Officer is responsible for ensuring the timely release of funds as well as the financial reporting of the project. 


Numerous gains accrue through the housing improvement programme. The spacious and solidly constructed housing provides dependable insulation from cold and rainy weather, improving comfort, private space, and overall health. Training community members in masonry and carpentry contributes toward the preservation of traditional artisanal techniques endows them with marketable skills and ensures that communities will be locally self-sufficient. 

Finally – and this is a persistent theme reported by community members and Tarayana fieldworkers alike – the collaborative effort involved in constructing the houses affects a miraculous surge in social cohesiveness and community solidarity. The communication and teamwork skills that develop through this intensive and rewarding effort then permeate all aspects of social life. 

Most importantly, the confidence and self-esteem of the community members grow exponentially. As owners of modest homes, they are empowered to take active roles in the mainstream development programmes of their communities. Their access to credit improves with this new asset ownership and overall, their living standard improves making them productive citizens. 

As of December 2023, the Foundation has facilitated building and renovating a total of 2555 houses.

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