Bhutan's semi-nomadic communities have suffered from food insecurity due low-level mechanization of their agricultural, food processing and storage practices. This has been exacerbated during the COVID19 pandemic by repeated border closures and lockdowns. Women, who are often in charge of the manual farm work have been disproportionately affected by the lack of machinery and volatile food prices. Arduous manual work required for subsistence farming is also driving the younger generation to leave their villages in search of alternative work.
In partnership with Tarayana Foundation, we have worked with two remote semi-nomadic community members to increase their food self-sufficiency through a series of training and the introduction of agricultural and food processing machinery. Despite delays caused by lockdowns and border closures, community engagement has been high and the presence of our partner's field officers on the ground has proven essential for the success of the project so far.
The project has brought a transformative impact to the villages, particularly women, by significantly reducing the physical burden of processing crops and reducing food waste. The increased productivity as well as the possibility of switching to crops with less price volatility has sustainable increased the communities’ income-generating capabilities and economic resilience.
Tsechu Doya, 52 (Ngawang Ramtoe, Tading)
‘We used to live in bamboo huts and were always worried about natural disasters damaging our hut and belongings. We neither had the necessary finances to build proper stable houses nor the peace of mind and capacity to participate in agricultural activities. The intervention of the Tarayana Foundation has transformed our lives beyond my imagination. With the sense of freedom, comfort, and peace of housing along with the unrelenting guidance from the field officers, we have been able to focus on agricultural activities. I recall going into the forests to collect various non-wood food products, buying food products from nearby towns, and growing a limited variety of grains. The processing of the food we collected from the forest was extraneous - we either had to wash them countless times in the river or take them to faraway places for pounding. Regarding our agricultural practice, we only grew maize and foxtail millet.It has been over three years since I started receiving support from the Tarayana Foundation for the production of agricultural products in both resources and skills. I have started growing vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli - allowing me and my family to live sustainably. Three years ago, I only saw vegetables during our rare visits to towns, and we had yet to learn how to grow or consume them. Last year, I could produce over 80 kilograms of vegetables per season but due to the pandemic I could not take the products to the market but thegewog office and school procured them. I earned about Nu. 30,000/- from the transaction.Comparing the times, I had yet to learn about agriculture work as a source of income and I feel very grateful for the guidance and equipments which have made our work enjoyable and easy. We also lacked the necessary exposure, skills, capital, and capacity for self-sufficient farming but the Foundation has sent experts into the village as well as community members outside for training, and workshops. Before venturing into agriculture, I used to sell oranges and dairy products for income. Now, I am fully invested in agriculture and food production and diversification, and with the income, I can invest in my children's education