Management: The sound of laughter fills the community hall in Merak village. Some 40 highlanders are engaged in an intense exercise to solve a task assigned to them.

Seated in groups of eight, the highlanders are asked to rearrange the formation of a fish made up of twigs in the opposite direction. This is an exercise to test the group’s problem-solving skills.

A loud shout goes up as one team manages to complete the task.

The team-building training among the highlanders is part of a five-day programme on social mobilisation for natural resource management began in Merak yesterday.

The course will cover group formation, group dynamics, managing conflict, building trust and drafting a group constitution and by-laws. A total of 120 highlanders herders will be trained over the next three weeks.

The training is part of the new sustainable rangeland management and red pandas conservation project in Merak.

Launched on October 23, the project aims to improve herders’ livelihoods, rangeland management and red panda habitat in winter grazing areas of Cheabuling and Sheytemi in Merak gewog.

The project also expects to improve livestock management through improved pasture and fodder tress including land rehabilitation and reforestation of over 400 hectares to control landslides and improve red panda habitats in the areas.

An official from the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in Phongmey said that building the group capacity and leadership qualities among the highlanders will assist  in implementation of sustainable rangeland management and conservation of red pandas in their tsamdros.

The project is initiated by the Regional Livestock Development Centre, Khangma and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, Phongmey in collaboration with Charles Sturt University, Australia.

Younten Tshedup