Micro Hydro Rural Electrification
The ‘Poverty Alleviation and Empowerment of Rural Women’ Project is jointly funded by the Arab Gulf programme for the United Nations Development (AGFUND) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by Tarayana Foundation, a local Non-Government Organization. The overall objective of the project is to alleviate poverty and enhance women’s empowerment in vulnerable rural communities by:
- Empowering women through the creation of employment and expansion of economic opportunities to enhance their income
- Curbing violence against women and promoting gender equality.
The project components are:
- Strengthen capacities to develop micro and small enterprises
- Expand income generating opportunities
- Establish micro saving schemes
- Establish day care facilities
- Create awareness on gender equality
- Implement activities to prevent violence against women
Zhemgang is one of the districts targeted for this project due to its high poverty measures as reported in the Poverty Analysis Report (PAR) 2007National Statistics Bureau, RGoB. Supporting the Poverty Analysis Report, the Small Area Estimation of Poverty in Rural Bhutan 2012, further emphasizes Zhemgang as one of the most poor, marginalized and disadvantaged districts. The project is scheduled to end in December 2012, and a joint field visit was undertaken by UNDP and Tarayana Foundation to review the project progress. Digila, Langdurbi villages in Zhemgang have been targeted as key beneficiaries for the project.
Brief Profile of Digila and Langdurbi Villages
Digila and Langdurbi fall under the most inaccessible, backward and poor villages in Zhemgang. Located in the central part of the district, it takes approximately six hours walk to reach Digila and another four hours from Digila to reach Langdurbi. There are no roads and no electricity in both the villages. An upcoming hydro power project has enabled a feeder road construction, however there is no bridge over the Mangde Chhu river, villagers either take the old route (8 hours walk), or cross the river on a ropeway (set up for and by the hydro power project). The hydro power project is expected to benefit Digila, Langdurbi and nearby villages with electricity, road and an income enabling environment.
Located on a steep slope, Digila is made up of 47 households, with a population of 230 (male – 114, female – 116). Langdurbi with 83 households and a population of 427 (male – 205, female – 222) is even more remote and far away from the nearest road point and market (at Rendebi). Both villages host a community school and an outreach clinic catering to their health and educational needs. There are no shops and people usually walk for 8 hours (one way) to reach the nearest market in Rendebi to buy basic necessities like oil, salt, and rice. The villagers are not robust farmers as they grow crops which are just enough to sustain themselves, and moreover they also don’t have easy access to market. They grow maize as their staple diet, few vegetables and the rest is supplemented by forest products.
Prior to the implementation of the AGFUND project the villagers of Langdurbi and Digila lived in abject poverty with negligible income generating activities. Electrification of both the villages is already underway and by the end of 2013 both the villages will be electrified.
Project Activities Assessment:
- Income generating activities:
The project implemented various activities to generate income depending on the existing skills and feasibility of the villagers. Small working groups/self help groups were formed wherein beneficiaries were trained and provided with various tools and equipments. An individual could enroll in more than one group as per their choice. Most of the groups are managed by women. Tarayana Foundation facilitates the marketing of all products during the annual Tarayana Fair and also at the Tarayana Shop located in Thimphu.
Four women from Langdurbi and Digila were trained in interlocking sewing technique for stitching wonju, tego and other garments. They were also provided with a sewing machine and one interlocking machine for each village. During the visit, it was observed that all of them were working on stitching new clothes and they said that people would also come to them for mending old clothes for which they charged a minimum price.
Two women from each village were trained in weaving and designing new patterns. Finished kiras would be sold during the annual Tarayana Fair in 2013 or for sale at the Tarayana shop. Some of them are also teaching the skills to other interested women in their villages. The project has also set up a weaving center in both the villages and with electricity coming soon; they hope to be able to weave at night. The weaving centre establishment was a boon as they were not interrupted by children or household chores as compared to weaving at home.
Pickle and Ginger Candy Groups
The pickle and ginger candy groups in Digala and Langdubi were trained on fermenting and bottling processes with technical assistance from the Postharvest Centre at Goling to make their products market ready. The groups were supplied with bottling materials and transportation for the marketing. The Digala group has 20 members and the Langdurbi Group has 32 members, all of whom are women. Apart from ginger candy, ginger pickle and bamboo shoot pickle, the groups are now exploring other fruits and vegetables, like amla (Indian Gooseberries), orange and guava. According to the members, marketing and selling is not a problem as long as they could keep up with the demands. They said that the pickles and candies were sold out during the fairs and were pleased and encouraged with the income they made.
Vegetable Gardening Group
A theoretical and hands on training was held for the two communities on kitchen gardening, vegetable and maize production with technical assistance from the Geog Agriculture Officer. The vegetable production self help groups in each community have been oriented on the importance of seed production and preservation. Tools such as spades and sickles were distributed to the group members in Zhemgang to enable them to function efficiently. Both villages were provided with one green house each with full support from the Project Coordinator of Soil and land Management Project (SLMP).
The green houses are fully functional enabling villagers to grow varieties of vegetables during off
season. A committee has been formed in each village to manage the greenhouse and the produce equally divided among the members.
The committee members are also excited at the prospect of exchanging vegetable and crop seeds with different regions within the country. Almost all the households have a garden growing various vegetables from seeds grown at the green house.