Tarayana Foundation: Reassuring hope and rebuilding lives

Founded by Her Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Tarayana Foundation has brought sea changes in the country

By Sonam Choki

Of a host of development and philanthropic partners in the country, Tarayana Foundation an organization founded by Her Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk has become the frontrunners of development in the country.

Apart from building lives and creating socio-economic wonders, the foundation is one of the few organizations that has helped spur the country’s growth and inspired lives.

Among a host of developmental acticities the foundation carries, the housing improvement programme is Tarayana’s flagship programme which aims at reducing vulnerabilities in the rural communities of Bhutan.

The Foundation says that since the inception of the Foundation in 2003, new and improved shelters with pour flush toilets and home repair and renovations were facilitated through this programme in partnership with various organizations both from abroad and within the country.

In 2020, 244 new houses were constructed, 31 renovated and 64 are under construction in Zhemgang, Sarpang, Dagana, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha, Haa, Tsirang, Chhukha, Lhuentse, Samtse, Mongar and Pema Gatshel. 229 new and improved pour flush toilets were constructed and 30 are under construction.

According to the Foundation, the housing improvement programme is implemented with fund support from donors such as the American Himalayan Foundation, the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) Chapters: YPO Sea Dragon, YPO Malaysia, YPO ASEAN United, coordinated by Impact Traveller Pte. Ltd through Bhutan Philanthropy Ventures Ltd, GEF Small Grants Programme, the Thai Philanthropists and Bvlgari through Save The Children Bhutan.

Fighting poverty and food security

Food and Nutrition Security Food and nutrition security also remain one of the key areas of interest for the Foundation.

This initiative, according to Tarayana, complements the tremendous effort made by the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in making the villages food selfsufficient.

Supports are provided in the forms of inputs, capacity building and market facilitation. COVID -19 provided opportunities for farmers to utilize their barren lands as vegetables and fruits available in the country became scarce.

The Foundation, during this period, supported 39 villages in 12 dzongkhags to cultivate vegetables in approximately 150 acres of land. Apart from farmers, youths laid off due to COVID-19 also took part in this initiative taking advantage of the country’s situation on the food security front.

In addition, the project β€œStrengthening Community Based Structure to address under five Nutrition” with fund support from the Asian Development Bank through Health Promotion Division (HPD), Ministry of Health (MoH) is being implemented in the 19 Gewogs under eight Dzongkhags of Dagana, Mongar, Pema Gatshel, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse, Trongsa and Zhemgang.

The main objective of this project is to address nutrition for children under five years through active engagement of existing community-based structures and local organizations.

Tarayana Foundation with support from the World Food Programme Bhutan (WFP) is implementing a project β€œNutrition and Health Advocacy to Help Rural and Vulnerable Population Groups Eat & Stay Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic & Beyond” in Samtse, Lhuentse, Zhemgang, and Trongsa Dzongkhags.

The foundation will carry out food mapping for selected districts to create a database for availability of food, consumption patterns, cooking & storage practices, informal seed preservation, and production system.

A multi-stakeholder technical advisory group will be created to provide guidance on content, outreach modality and overall field-level coordination. The project aims to strengthen the capacity of the field officers from the CSOs by consulting all the relevant stakeholders.

Among others, Tarayana works with some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country with high poverty incidences.

These communities have very limited adaptive capacity and coping mechanisms to climate-induced risks. Most of the communities are also located in high climate variability zones which further increases their risk of climate hazards.

The foundation understands that due to climate change, the livelihood options of the communities are challenged with water scarcity, increased pests and diseases, decreased crop yield, human-wildlife conflict further aggravating the food insecurity issues, waste management, and so on.

However, through different interventions, the Foundation builds and enhances the capacities of the communities to cope with the impacts and risks of climate change.

The project β€œDeveloping Climate Resilient Communities through Appropriate Adaptation and Mitigation Interventions” funded by Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) is implemented in 18 villages of Sarpang, Haa, Samtse, Mongar and Lhuentse Dzongkhags.

Through this project, human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) have been significantly reduced, thereby contributing to food security, sustainable livelihoods and water security.

Furthermore, a 20,000 litres water tank was constructed and water piping completed at Nagor village in Mongar. Construction of one pressure breaker tank and one reservoir tank at Dechenling in Sarpang is complete.

In addition, water pipes were provided for the community members of Ngawang Dramtoe in Samtse. A total of six kilometers of electric fencing installed at Somzhing, Yuwa and Thimyul villages under Lhuentse

Meanwhile, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) -Living Landscape: Securing High Conservation Values (HCVs) in South-Western Bhutan is an eight-year project implemented by WWF Bhutan and Tarayana Foundation in partnership with the Royal Government of Bhutan through the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) and National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS).

The project covers nine districts of Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Chhukha, Tsirang, Dagana, Sarpang, Samtse and Zhemgang, constituting a total area of 9967.45 km2 (equivalent to 996,745 ha) outside the protected areas and biological corridors.

The concept of High Conservation Values (HCVs) is the central approach of this project. In 2020, assessment of five types of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) was conducted at Haa, Sarpang, Samtse, Tsirang, Dagana, Chhukha and Zhemgang.

Tarayana Foundation’s primary objective, among others, is to support rural communities of Bhutan to secure a better future through sustained livelihoods and enhancing access to financial services.

β€œIn helping these communities help themselves, the experience spanning close to two decades has clearly demonstrated that a strong economic development program has to be designed and initiated to support rural livelihoods to ensure capacity building in a way fulfilling the country’s goal of self-reliance,” Tarayana states.

The foundation has helped form more than 200 SHGs so far with 3000+ members engaged in income-generating activities such as cane, bamboo & nettle weaving, wood crafts, food processing, vegetable production, cultivating cash crops, beekeeping, dairy farming, traditional paper making, sheep wool weaving and traditional pottery.

The self-help groups are formed to encourage cohesiveness among the community members for common income generation and to improve collective marketing of produce and products.

The project β€œPromoting Integrated Bamboo Based Enterprise Development among SAARC Countries” supported by the SAARC Development Fund, is implemented in Gongdue, Silambi and Saling in Monggar and Ngangla, Goshing and Bjoka in Zhemgang.

Tarayana stated the project aims to create sustainable high-value economic opportunities that will directly improve the quality of life for farmers, artisans, micro & small enterprises, designers, traders and exporters. Research and development of bamboo and its composites as engineering materials for various end-use applications is the second objective of the project.

The project “Export Diversification for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction” funded by European Union and facilitated by the International Trade Centre and Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts, is implemented by Tarayana Foundation in Samtse, Pema Gatshel, Trashigang and Lhuentse.

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