Away from the clamor and din of hypocrisy that is the order of the day in the nation’s capital city of Thimphu - a cauldron simmering with broken dreams and dashed hopes - a quiet revolution has been taking form in the remote villages of the country’s poorest and least served Dzongkhag - Zhemgang.
A chance encounter during my recent trip to Zhemgang gave me both hope and despair. Hope because what is afoot is nothing short of revolutionary! Despair because I suspect that they do not have the wherewithal to pull this through successfully! The idea is monumental! If this succeeds, it can be replicated all around the country.
In what must be a first in the country, a small group of sixteen unemployed youth have come together to form what they call the “Khengrig Ngamsum Cooperative”. These youth, both men and women, in the age group from 18 to 38 years have all gone back from the urban cities to their villages in Zhemgang - to be members of this cooperative conceived and initiated by an enterprising Khengpa named Thinley Wangdi.
Thinley Wangdi, the spirit behind the movement
Fourteen of the sixteen founding Members of the Khengrig Namsum Cooperative. They were attending a training course at the Rural Development Training Center, Zhemgang - the construction of which was funded by the HELVETAS.
These youth have a simple business idea: to be a bridge between the farming community in Zhemgang and the consumers. They have taken a Nu.3.2 million loan from the BOIC and disbursed the money among farmers - to till fallow lands, to provide fencing, water supply, for seedlings and to purchase and supply farm tools.
They wish to encourage mass production of food grain, vegetable, poultry, piggery, diary farming etc. - to achieve certain amount of economy of scale, so that these items can be marketed at competitive prices to consumers. Initially, they hope to target what they consider a captive market - schools, the Dratsang, the armed forces, vegetable vendors etc. They hope that in the next 3 years, they will create a situation where not a kg. of vegetable need to be imported in Zhemgang Dzongkhag.
They hope to create a market for farmers, thereby encouraging them to grow more, for economic gains. This, they hope, will help restock the villages with able-bodied men and women to produce more to meet the growing demand for food in the urban centers.
They hope that the same business model will be followed elsewhere in the country: to help reverse rural-urban migration, to generate employment opportunities, to curtail imports, to help achieve food self-sufficiency over a period of time.
This group of sixteen is fired by hope and determination and a will to do something for themselves, by themselves. They have a dream for the country. Unfortunately, successful ventures are not always brought to fruition based on determination and idealistic dreams. They need finance, experience and expertise, knowledge of marketing and distribution, collection and storage, sorting and packaging skills and the ability and network for timely delivery to buyers and consumers. They need to understand the concept of costing. Above all they need to understand and work within the concept and ethics of cooperative partnership.
This is a phenomenal idea and every Bhutanese has a responsibility to help make this idea a success. We cannot stand by and allow such a revolutionary idea to come to naught - because the concept holds great promise for Bhutan.
I will be devoting a portion of my time and resources to try and make this endeavor a success. Please let me know if you wish to be a part of this groundbreaking movement. You can contribute in many ways - expertise and monetary. Please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be approaching my friends with philanthropic bend of mind to take part ownership of this initiative that has the potential to revolutionize farm production in Bhutan.
In the coming days I will be going back to Zhemgang to study this project a little more in-depth - to see that they are on the right track.