A home is generally the most important asset people will ever own. For poor families around the world, it is likely to be the only significant asset they will possess. Yet, until recently, access to housing-related finance has remained extremely limited in the developing world.
The home is important for psychological reasons as well as its physical protection against the elements. It is the environment in which most people spend the majority of their time.
To not have a roof over one’s head is considered a tragedy and lamented by those who do not have one.
We bring you the stories of two new house owners one each in Sarpang, Trongsa and Lhuntse Dzongkhags respectively to shed some light on the realities that these owners have been exposed to before benefiting from the Government’s REAP II interventions implemented by Tarayana Foundation.
Tajugang (Bhakgjungay) under Jigmecholing gewog is one of the most remote small village in Sarpang Dzongkhag with only six households. With the recent farm road to the neighboring gewog of Chhudzom, it is five hours drive and four hours walk to reach this village.
Harka Badhur, 23 years old from this village lived in a one storied mud rammed house with his parents, elder brother, and sister in-law with their three children. Their house had only two rooms, a kitchen and the other where the family slept. He recounted on how he would sleep most of the time at his friend’s place just to create space for the rest of the expanding family. While not having enough space was a problem on the one hand, not being able to afford better housing caused much distress. Harka and his family used thatch for their roof that could not withstand the heavy monsoon rains every year, leaving them drenched and exposed to the elements.
“It was then that the Tarayana Foundation under REAP II project changed not just my life, but my family’s as well by gifting us a house which was actually beyond our means to even think of constructing it. We no longer worry about spaces and the heavy monsoon rains do not bother us as we now have CGI”.
He also added that his family also received materials for the construction of a flush toilet and bathroom and that his family enjoys better health and open defecation is a thing of the past.
“I have never thought about marriages although my family insisted that I get married. But there were things to consider before marrying and having a house with not much space initially didn’t really help me to comply with my parent’s wishes. I am now married and live with my family in a new house. We are fortunate to have been the recipient of this housing program and our life has become better than it was yesterday.”
I had the privilege of attending his wedding ceremony. He has visibly changed from being a quiet person to someone brimming with confidence. It was then that I realized how having a good home transformed lives. Here was a man who earlier could not think of marrying because of the conditions of his house but all that changed when he benefited from the Housing Improvement Programme of Tarayana funded through REAP II. He worked hard to make the best of the opportunity to improve his housing.
Today, Harka lives with his family in the new house. Whenever I pass by his new house, I think of the transformation that this family has undergone just from having adequate housing. The Housing Improvement is one of the flagship programmes of the Foundation. This particular house was build with funds from the Government of India through REAP II and the hard work of the community coming together. Hundreds of families like Harka’s have benefitted from the Housing Improvement Programme. As a Tarayana Field Officer, I have been part of all this positive transformation and this motivates me to work harder putting my heart and soul in serving these rural families.
As of today, eight of the eleven houses approved under REAP II, have been completed and the balance three are in various stages of completion.
Ney (known for Guru’s sacred sites), villagers among themselves call it as Ney Pemacholing under Gangzur geog, Lhuntse dzongkhag. It is 29 kilometers from Lhuntse Dzong and takes about three hours drive on the newly constructed farm road. This is also the last village in Lhuntse Dzongkhag where government initiatives have not been implemented. The villagers are subsistence farmers and depend on the paddy cultivation. They do not have market access to sell any of their crops.
Ugyen Tshogyal lived in a small hut in this village with six other family members. They continued to live in the hut as they could not afford to construct a new house. Ugyen Tshogyal’s father is a lay monk while her mother is a housewife. Ugyen, herself has been deprived of education as her family was unable to send her to school when she was a kid. She then took charge of the welfare of her family, got married and had two children from her husband. She divorced her husband and father of her two children and later remarried.
Ugyen recalled the days when she would not invite any of the guest or her close friends to her house because she was ashamed of her hut. She remembers the difficulties her family faced during the monsoon season. Although they used bamboo mats as their roof, these had to be replaced approximately every two seasons. The roof leaked during the monsoons and the family was not adequately protected from the elements. Her family could not afford tarpaulin to help water proof her roof.
When the baseline survey and consultative meetings were conducted, housing improvement was given the most priority owing to the need of people in this village. This is how I ended up in Ugyen Tshogyal’s hut where our projects have supported her family with CGI sheet, carpenter wages and sawing fuel to start the construction of her new house.
To construct a house, there was a long list of formalities to be completed involving land allocation and deed finalization for the house construction, timber permit and local government approval for house construction, structural drawings, etc. It takes about one year to get a permission to extract the required timber. To construct a house itself for Ugyen, it took one year to submit the application and get it approved. Ney village falls under Wangchuck Central Park Territory and I had to submit timber permit application form to the gewog and further to range office at Dungkar which cost about Nu. 2500 for taxi fare and sometimes the focal person was not available causing delays in the constructing of the house.
Once one gets the permission to extract timber, getting approval for the construction of the house from the gewog takes a long time. This is followed up with submitting the duly filled application form to the Dzongkhag Administration Office. Only after the approval of the housing drawings and site map by District Engineer, Land Record Officer conducts verification. Only after all these formalities are conducted, we are given the approval to construct the house. Even with the help of a checklist, this is one of the tedious paper process that is not even attempted by most villagers. This is a service that Tarayana provides to all our housing improvement beneficiaries.
The community formed a group among themselves to contribute collective labor to help Ugyen with the construction of her new house.
Ugyen Tshogyal was hesitant initially and worried that she would not be able to build a house of her own. I mobilized the community and using the Rukha Model, helped Ugyen Tshogyal build her house. She is now the proud owner of her own house and can ensure that her family is protected from the vagaries of nature. She is happy that she can now raise her children better and she delights in knowing that her children will not have to go through the same hardships she had encountered. She also stated that her children will not hesitate to invite their friends or guest anymore now that they no longer live in a hut. She now lives happily with her family in the newly constructed traditional two-storied house.
We have to construct 34 houses that have been approved through REAP II, of which four are completed and the remaining houses need to be completed. We lost a whole year to the villagers’ belief that 2016 was “Lo Na”, and not good for starting any construction work. We, however, have a strategy of teams of people working on the construction and hope to complete all within the project period.