Partnership: The Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) will work in collaboration with a local cooperative and an entrepreneur to operate a common facility centre at Bjizam in Trongsa.

The centre was constructed in 2013, under the project ‘Medicinal plants and herbs: Developing sustainable supply chain and enhancing rural livelihoods’ (October 2011-June 2013), however, it has remained underutilised for the past three years.

While BAOWE has been attempting to increase utilisation of the centre, success was elusive.

Founder and CEO of BAOWE, Damchae Dem, said the association has been providing technical backstopping behind the scenes. “This was not taking the project forward,” she said, adding that BAOWE will now work in collaboration with the cooperative and entrepreneur, together.

BAOWE first formed a cooperative called Nubi Menchong Nyamlay, which involved 104 households, but it could not take the project forward due to problems like cooperative members feeling that work is not distributed evenly, among others.

BAOWE then appointed a local entrepreneur, but the entrepreneur also could not take the project forward after becoming overloaded with the workload.

Damchae Dem said she is positive about the project but more time is needed. “It’s a pilot project and taking us some time to start,” she said, adding that Nubi would be a “shinning star” once the project begins to succeed. The project could also be spread to other parts of the country later.

Damchae Dem said in one incidence, the entrepreneur could not buy all the chilies from the people. The chillies had to be taken to Thimphu but the price expected could not be fetched. “We will ensure that the entrepreneur buys their products from now on,” she said.

Trongsa agriculture officer, Karma Chewang, said the project also got delayed following a court case related to the construction of the centre.

He said people in Nubi gewog also grew medicinal herbs like Ruta, Goned and Manu as part of the project. “We have also distributed seeds of these medicinal plants and Sergimito plant for trial,” he said.

The common facility centre lies bellow the Bemji farm road just before reaching the present Nubi gewog office.

The Italian government funded the centre while the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development implemented the project. BAOWE has agreed to take up the capacity building work with the agriculture ministry.

Facilities for distillation, grinding and drying vegetables are installed.

Villagers will bring their products to the centre where they will be processed and packaged. BAOWE will then help them market their products.

Nima Wangdi |  Bjizam