Bhutan's semi-nomadic communities have suffered from food insecurity due to border closures and lock downs. Their lack of capabilities to process and safely store food has exacerbated their poor nutritional intake and put them at the mercy of volatile market prices
In two remote regions Eastern (Samtse) and Western (Trashigang) Bhutan, we have started working with semi-nomadic communities members to increase their food self-sufficiency through a series of trainings and introduction of agricultural and food processing machineries. Despite delays caused by lockdowns and border closures, community engagement is high and the presence of our partner organisation's field officers on the ground has proven essential for the success of the project so far.
With the successful completion of the project, new machineries will enable the community members in diversifying their produce and prolong the shelf life to generate maximum income from the products which will gradually contribute to improving their living standards
Lack of storage leads to wastage of harvest, especially during lockdowns, as all marketing channels become unavailable. Likewise, during monsoon season, farm roads become susceptible to landslides and road blockage
Community members have resorted to buying essentials from the market as they have very little access to machinery (mostly owned by richer households). Without the capacity to process their own crops, they become dependent on market supplies
Traditional method of drying food with smoke or in open air is unhygienic and pauses a health hazard to the local population
1. Enhance income generation opportunities especially for women and the youth, through utilization of machineries provided
2. Instill sense of ownership via introduction of saving schemes (monthly contribution by group members) which will be used for future maintenance of the machines supplied
3. Improved community cohesion and cooperation
As soon as covid restrictions were lifted, Tarayana's field officers have initiated the machinery delivery as well as capacity building activities on group governance, operations and maintenance of the tools and machines. Field officers have also guided the beneficiaries in preparing a management plan for the sustainability of the project.
In Tading, community engagement has been high, and some of the initial choices of machineries have been adjusted to respond to local beneficiaries' needs. To date, 18 maize grinders, 9 millet and 1 rice flour mills as well as 1 arecanut peelers have been delivered and put to good use. 29 household members were trained on the operation and maintenance of the machines. This has drastically reduced processing time, often performed by women. It has allowed for better storage of the community's sustenance cross, as well as generating higher income for those who sold the value-added products. In time, the villagers are hoping this will help retain some of the youth, less inclined to do hard manual work to stay in the villages.
In Tashigang district. 20 Maize grinders, 10 flour mills, 4 rice mills and 2 solar dryers were delivered. They have allowed alleviate the intense labor required to process crops as well as diversifying of the local diet, usually restricted to buckwheat and maize. This aims to allow women to spend more time focusing on other income generating activities such as weaving, as well as encouraging villagers, especially the youth to explore income generation opportunities with value-added project.
Having access to machines within their own community will also lessen their dependence on other nearby communities, enhance productivity and ensure food security during and beyond the COVID 19 pandemic.