Fighting poverty

Very low income housing

A popular attraction at the recent Tarayana Fair was the Lhop house. The house, which barely measures 8 feet by 9 feet, had belonged to Ap Pen Tshering, and in it, he and his wife, Aum Gagay Lham, had raised their four children.

75 year-old Pen Tshering’s house had been dismantled and transported to Thimphu, where it was carefully reassembled to showcase the lifestyle of the Lhops, Bhutan’s first inhabitants. And Pen Tshering had been more than happy to abandon his house. After all, he had no need for it.

Ap Pen Tshering, you see, had built a bigger, better and stronger house – one that has four rooms, a separate kitchen and a CGI roof. He’d built his new house with help from Tarayana Foundation.

But his is not the only house that Tarayana has built in Lotukuchu, easily the poorest and the most neglected part of our country. In fact, Tarayana has helped almost every household in the three villages that make up Lotukuchu build better homes. At last count, 73 families have already moved into new dwellings. And houses for the remaining 10-odd families are already being constructed.

And it’s not just housing. Tarayana has helped the Lhops – in Lotukuchu and elsewhere – acquire the resources and skills needed to increase farm productivity and improve income generation. That’s why today’s Lhops are no longer living in abject poverty, completely cut off from the rest of the country. Today’s Lhops boast decent housing, piped water, proper sanitation, an oil expeller, a maize grinder, a cornflake making machine, a power tiller, a traditional paper factory, and a cooperative shop.

And it’s not just in Lotukuchu. Since its establishment, seven years ago, Tarayana has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of our poorest people – simple subsistence farmers who live in some of the remotest corners of Bhutan. Before Tarayana, very few officials had visited them. And no one cared about them. They had been forgotten.

Not any longer. Today, Tarayana is intimately involved in 36 villages across 5 dzongkhags reducing poverty levels, improving the quality of lives, and giving hope to entire communities.

How do they do it? Raw determination. And the support of donors, volunteers and well-wishers. But also by making every ngultrum count.

It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to transform the lives of our Lhops. But Tarayana’s war against poverty in Lotukuchu cost them only US$ 100,000. That’s about the price of a new Toyota Prado. And that’s nothing short of miraculous.

Imagine what we could have done with US$ 9.2 million!


Facebook Comments:


  1. I would like to say that Tarayana is doing a great job in uplifting poverty in Taba-Ramtey, Lotokuchu, Ada-Rukha, Nabji-Korphu where original inhaitants are daily struggling for their livelihood. I wish Tarayana fair all the best and may Bhutanese and others contribute generiously for the good cause.


  2. How is the McKinsay’s reform working in the country so far?
    I still haven’t read any press release on it from the government.

  3. Tarayana is doing a great job in our country under the down-to-earth benevolent guidance and brilliant initiative of the Queen Mother. We must appreciate and support its activities. But how long will our country go on depending on such a volunteer organizations to build houses for the homeless, feed those who are starving, building schools where there aren’t any, treat those who don’t have any access to proper medical care, and create opportunities for our deprived fellow citizens, is another issue. Let me not discuss that here.

    What I would like to share here is this: Lyonchen JYT thought all you people in the National Assembly,both PDP and DPT guys, and our Councilors in the National Council are nothing but idiots who make a lot of noise here and there but have no brains capable to imagine and envision the utility of such a huge amount of money by sitting together in our Parliaments and discussing it in our country and for our country. Calculated at today’s exchange rate, USD 9.2million is coming around four hundred million and five hundred thousand ngultrums!So,he decided to give it ALL to the McKinseys to “imagine” for him and perhaps, I am in serious doubt,get himself some NR(no-receipt)commission out of it!I wouldn’t mind doing the same thing for a NR commission of just about 50 million ngultrums out of the four hundred million if I become a PM too!!
    Just a thought.

  4. Is our Government really goping to pay US$9.2 to Mackinsey for the advices that are shot down one after another??? How about paying the consultancy firm for some down-to-earth doable proposals rather than for out-of this world idea of mass tourism for small country like Bhutan?


  5. I want to congratulate PM and OL for declining the offer to move into Minister’s enclave. I think it is the best decision PM and OL have taken. In a small country like Bhutan, we should not have built these luxuary apartments for exclusive group of people–Ministers and constitutional post holders. It will be very uneasy to live in such a luxuary houses built at government expenses when more than 30% of Bhutanese are struggling to earn two square meals a day.

    I find this decision of Ministers moving into luxuary apartment not keeping in tune with our GNH philosophy and also not keeping in tune with principle of equality in democratic setup.

    Look at British MP and Ministers. They live in their houses or in rented apartment, except PM who lives in 10Downing street because it was made as tradition in the UK.

    Poor country dependent on foreign aid, yet our political masters have no qualms of conscience to live in ivory tower.

    Save Bhutan.

  6. To Thinlay:
    I think it is all right if our ministers who already have palatial duplexes and resort-like houses in and around Bhutan’s Beverly hill or elsewhere to refuse to move into the minister’s enclave but for those ministers who do not yet have a decent house, they must move into the enclave as soon as possible. It is not about GNH or no GNH. It is about our country’s reputation. As ministers, they will have to host foreign guests frequently, formally and informally, and you know, these guests will be of the same status in their own countries as our ministers who are hosting them. And very often visiting diplomats prefer formal discussions in an informal setting like at a dinner table at a minister’s house. Imagine how a foreign minister will feel if he had to come to an apartment where his counterpart minister lives on rent? We can’t let that happen. NO. We can not compare our ministers with those of other countries who are mostly influential wealthy people in their own country owning more than one grand mansion, keeps scores of servants, employs dozen of security guards, drives limousines and flies private jets. We need to provide these facilities to our ministers, constitutional post holders and even the MPs if we can for the reputation of our own country, not for their personal reputation per se.
    That’s another thought today.

  7. Youngmein says

    Talking about poverty, it makes many to wonder where are the foreign aids going in reality. Bhutan receives foreign aids from an impressive list of organisations and countries from around the world. Another form of aid received by Bhutan is through international and foreign volunteer programs.

    It is said that foreign aids in LDCs (Bhutan included) never reach the needy. One of the Ministers of Afghanistan in conference mentioned this “When money comes to Afghanistan, it’s spent on those people who already have cars costing USD 0.6 m and who live in houses with a USD 15,000 monthly rent rather than going to poor farmers and expenses needed to battle poverty.

    Instead, the high expenditure on paying, protecting and accommodating Western aid officials, corrupt Ministers and elite lot in palatial style helps to explain why Afghanistan ranks 174th out of 178th on a UN ranking of countries’ wealth”. Bhutan ranks 132nd in UN ranking and the picture is no different.

    If a country such as Switzerland, a landlocked country about the size of Bhutan can become a leading nation, Bhutan, despite advantage of huge foreign aids from 1960s till now and having a strategic location of two giant markets of the world on either side, leaves us with a question, what have we been doing? where is the money going?

    Dear OL, if you think you can do something for the poor people in the country, this is the time. The 5th session of the Parliament is just 3 weeks away and I am sure DPT is busy devising tactics on how to fool the public by endorsement of last minute pay rise decision. Most MPs are fumbling around doing nothing and getting everything. This session lets us see something worth a seeing, not just Bills and Acts and salary!

  8. Practising GNH says

    We are a GNH society and everything should be aligned with the philosophy of GNH. In this context certainly what Tarayana is doing is good and appreciated by many. There are many who would like to help but without financial support not much can be done. It would be nice to share how Tarayana is mobilizing funds so that other NGOs could also help in promoting our country as a GNH society, as the goal is same – helping those in need. I think those who visited other places like parts of Zhemgang and S/Jongkhar know how conditions really are. Many who live only in Thimphu may not be knowing the realities in the other parts being lost with sights of Prados, Buildings, TVs, Internet, etc. BBS should be showing some glimpses of such places to remind certain people. Hope Corporate sector and “big” private individuals will come forward and donate for such causes. It is time to give and share. Few have extracted and accumulated too much. It is now time to show compassion for others.

  9. “Lhops, Bhutan’s first inhabitants.” who says so? Monpas say they are the first but we bjobs claim we are the one. Its very important to support factual statements with empirical evidences for its validity and reliability. Thank you.

  10. I guess “Lhops” are generally considered as original inhabitants(without ofcourse, historical or anthropoligical/archeological evidences) until such time that we could prove otherwise.


  11. In great reverence, I pay my tribute to HMQM.Ashi Dorji Wangmo for founding the Tarayana.The Tarayana has touched countless lives amongst the marginalized,disadvantaged and the missed population of our country. What impresses and touches me most is HMQM’s initiative to first traverse all the remotest and most challenging areas on foot; to discover the realities personally. Then only she put her plans into action. Now,Tarayana has indeed become a household name in all the remote areas and rightly so, because they have made a big difference with so little funds.
    We in the govt.spend millions on so called noble projects and sadly much of that is consumed in consultancies,workshops,familiarization visits out of the country,trainings etc,ectc.By the time it finally gets to the beneficiaries; there is not enough to make a appreciable impact.
    So,may I on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged Bhutanese thank HMQM and all at the Tarayana for your hard work and sacrifice.

  12. I would like attempt another bark at the blatant waste of US$ 9.2 Million by the government. I want to see the full progress. I want to see the final outcome. I want some transparency.
    Did the firm employ a single Bhutanese in the project?
    Reforms are a continuos process. What if we need another reform? Pay out more outside firms to do the job and fret about unemployment and lack of funds for developmental activities in the country?
    Isn’t it about time we trained our own consultants? Researchers? Invest in our own human resources?
    I would like to thank Tarayana for bringing in plain sight, the plight of the people living in poverty and their generous support to the poor.
    But if the government keep employing foreigners at extravagant paychecks to tell us that our mouth is located an inch below the nose, the country will forever be begging for foreign aids.

  13. Honorable OL,
    With due respect, we have noticed that you did not answer my question in “update on fifth session”,you did not respond to any of the queries raised by me and the other readers in “parliament’s fifth session”, and you made a scapegoat out of Dasho Damcho in “Dasho Damcho on LG”.Now you are straying away to note TT’s point which is good but not important at this point of time.I seriously hope you will not forget to note the points raised above by Lobxang too which is, in fact, more important and real.The Bumtaaps claim they were here since the land was infested with demons. The Sharchokpas claim they were the first human inhabitants who learned their languages from the nagas who inhabited this part of the world before them. The Khengpas claim they had been a wretched tribe since times immemorial and many of them are still the same.Ngalops are said to be descendants of the Tibetan fugitives.The Southerners only came into our country in the last five or six decades as laborers and slaves when Bhutan began the era of modernization under the second and the third Kings.I do not think it is at all necessary at this point of time to find out who were the first inhabitants of our country.Seeing how much our prime minister can pay the McKinsey to tell us “our mouth is located an inch below the nose” and reading stories like “making do with makeshift at Narang CPS” in the Kuensel is absolutely disgusting. I plead you to do a meticulous research as far as your privileges facilitate and allow access to classified information and expose the details of the McKinsey and JYT connection to the general public at the earliest. Your last article on McKinsey was not appreciably in depth enough.
    Finally, I have two questions for you today.
    Q1: Why did the Opposition say that the CDG is unconstitutional if it is not going to do anything about it? Is it because you also enjoy the CDG anyways or, are you afraid you will lose your job and perks and not get it back if the Supreme Court dissolves the government?
    Q2:Don’t you think your inaction is a deliberate violation of section 1 of article 18 of our Constitution?
    It will be nice if you answer my questions but if you don’t, your silence will speak volumes about what kind of Opposition we really have in our National Assembly.

    • @Tangba: Yes, I’ve been quiet. That’s because I’ve been enjoying the debate between you and “Guest”. As always, I try not to participate when there’s a good discussion going – it’s better for me to listen to and learn from the arguments. Of course, if I feel I have something important to contribute, I will participate.

      I will reply to your questions, but as a new post and in due course of time, especially when something relevant comes up. Meanwhile, I’ve expressed my views on the CDG several times on this blog.

      Thanks for keeping this important issue alive.

  14. Honorable OL,

    Thank you for your continuous support towards Tarayana Foundation, we deeply appreciate your initiatives in spreading the words.
    I wanted to answer the question posted by ‘Practising GNH’, first of all thank you for appreciating what the Foundation is striving to do for those less fortunate than us. When it comes to funds Tarayana, by the general public has been tagged with a huge bank account,which is not the reality. Tarayana never had seed money to start with, it all started with personal initiative and great visions of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Today, We are rich, but only in our hearts”, we believe in providing service from the heart.
    We don’t receive any fundings from the government.Larger portion of our funds are grant based,which of course routes through the government. UNDP/HELVETAS/Save the Children has been our major partners in reaching out to the poorest of the poor. We have few individual donors and receive very few corporate donations from within the country. Now we have a beautiful big center at Chubachu sponsored by the Jaiprakash Associates Limited,India.Except for one block, we have rented out the whole place, so that we can cover the over head costs and increase our activities in the communities from the revenue generated.

    Just recently we have started a membership programme do contact if any readers here are interested to be part of our endeavorer in reaching out to the grassroots level.

    And we also know that there are many people wondering why we are not working in the poorer villages of other Dzongkhags. It is because we don’t believe in spreading out thin and getting nothing done, but rather empowering one village at a time has always been our approach of interventions. Another reason is we have limited resources (both financial and human), but we hope to reach out to all the needy ones in near by future.

    do visit for more infos

    best wishes

  15. Practising GNH says

    Thanks Sonam for the information. I am sure this information will benefit many.

  16. I feel OL is doing a great job as of now. Gongratulation!

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