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New roads to better lives in rural Bhutan

Deepa Rai's picture
Men from the Pokri Dangra community working on the power tiller track. (Credit: RRCDP project) 

For remote rural communities in mountainous Bhutan, survival hinges upon access to roads and markets.

Since 2003, the Royal Government has built over 1,500 kilometers of farm roads and narrower, lower-cost “power tiller tracks” to help communities, which subsist mostly on agriculture, connect to the larger population, and improve their incomes and standards of living.

For farmers in the Pokri Dangra village in Samste Dzongkhag, a new track has brought more benefits than expected and significantly improved access to markets and services and reduced the cost of trading goods with other local communities.

Buyers can now come to the village to buy cardamom, and villagers can take their produce to surrounding areas like Tala, Pemaling and Zhemgang. This has brought additional income to these households which in turn has resulted in the construction of improved toilets, as bringing construction materials was previously unaffordable because of transportation costs.

“Earlier, people used to carry loads from the nearest Indian border market which took about 10 hours. We can now save time on travel and have time for our agricultural work,” says one of the farmers. “The main benefit for us is the transportation of cardamom which is the main cash crop here. Without a road, transporting 40 kg Cardamom cost Nu.500* ($7.4). We now pay only Nu.2 ($0.03) per kg. At the same time, bringing food and other essential items has become a lot easier,” he adds.

The track was made possible through the Remote Rural Communities Development Project (RRCDP), a joint effort of the Royal Government of Bhutan with financial support from the World Bank Group. RRCDP aims to improve the livelihoods of the poorest people living in Bhutan’s remote rural areas, who lack the roads, irrigation, technology, and infrastructure necessary to integrate in the country’s economy. The project includes a Community Driven Development (CDD) component, which encourages community involvement and the direct control of local groups over resources. This has led to the efficient delivery of basic services and will contribute to reducing poverty, particularly among the poorest communities.
 
The Pokri Dangra village opted for a power tiller track from Sernyagang (KholaKharka) to Tsholingkhar (Pokhari Dara)— a 2.4 km access road in Namgyelchoeling Geog, Samtse Dzongkhag. The community hired an excavator with the allocated budget and provided their own labor as in-kind contribution. The community also used their own vehicles for transportation of fuel for the machine.
 
The track was completed in only 23 days and now benefits 40 households during the summer season.
 
*1 Bhutanese Ngultrum equals to approximately 0.015 US Dollar

Comments

Submitted by Gustavo Woltmann on

As we can see to this local community all of them working hard together without any hi-tech equipment and we can see that this worker is from their village but I can see that they are happy together even though they don't have any help from their government.

Submitted by joseph shine on

Fantastic, heart warming story. Wonderful to know that the community is now able to market their produce and also obtain supplies required by them more easily. One more success story to show how effective the CDD approach can be!

Submitted by Deepa on

Yes, Josesph. In this particular case, the CDD approach has benefitted the rural communities in Bhutan as the ownership is with the local people there. Thank you for your comment on the blog.

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