Friday, June 3, 2011
Self Sufficiency, Not Charity
Since Bhutan opened its isolated doors during the reign of the Third Druk Gyalpo, the country has come a long way. Bhutan was probably one of the last remaining trails yet to be blazed by the economic and political changes wrought by the 20th century.
Today the year is 2011 and not only is Bhutan a full-fledged member of the international community, but a country that is breaking new grounds in terms of approach and the radical shift thereabouts to, and of development. GNH is the gift that will forever keep Bhutan in the annals of history; just as the constitution of the United States of America gave the world a foundation that respects the inalienable rights that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights; such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Our own constitution echoes, amongst many, that all persons shall have the right to life, liberty and security of person and shall not be deprived of such rights except in accordance with the due process of law.
Its been a long journey, but nonetheless a journey of learning. Our caution has paid off, and we are in a much better position in every sense than we were a couple of decades back. But the majority of our people are farmers living outside the cash. Despite limited resources, the agricultural sector is the main source of livelihood. Poverty affects more than 30 per cent of the people, and 96 per cent of our compatriots live in rural areas.
Thimphu is the exception, and not the norm. Our poorest people are farmers, and getting them out of the poverty level has been the goal. Poverty is deepest in the eastern zones, with about 75 percent of the poorest living in Pemagatshel, Zhemgang, Monggar, Trashigang and Sampdrup Jongkhar. Poverty has diverse causes, but most are linked to the nature of the land. Because villages are isolated and the terrain is extremely rugged, people lack access to social and health services and to education and markets, even though efforts have been made and positive changes brought forth.
In many poor communities people walk for hours or days to reach the nearest roads. Children walk two or three hours to get to the nearest schools. Poor people do not own or have no access to productive assets, such as land. Due to high illiteracy levels and lack of trainings, farmers have no skills and technological access or know-how to improve their living standards.
The good news is the government is aware of these pitfalls and plans and policies are in place to redress these pertinent issues. In light of these realities, the 44 households in Pemagatshel that were granted land Kidu yesterday, by the Office of the Gyapoi Zimpon and the GNHC on behalf of His Majesty the King, is but one small example of the importance and the earnestness of the paramount need to empower the poorest of the poor.
Once they begin cultivating this land, the next step is being able to achieve self-sufficiency.
Not only for themselves, but for the country as a whole.