Twenty-eight planning, environment and gewog administrative officers from nine eastern and central dzongkhags attended a training to write conservation project proposals in Trashigang.

The Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) organised the three-day workshop, which provided hands-on training in writing grant proposal along with familiarisation on conservation thematic areas of their strategic plan III.

Officials from the BTFEC said the workshop is aimed at developing the capacities of the grant recipients and help them become long-term custodians of the environment.

BTFEC’s programme officer, Dorji, said many people in the grassroots including village communities and gewog administrations were not aware of such grant facilities. “Those who are aware don’t have the capacity to come up with convincing grant proposals to implement the projects.”

He said the participants would, in turn, take the knowledge to the grassroots and help farmers and aspiring conservationists develop a strong proposal for the grant that BTFEC provides. “We hope that this training would encourage more people from rural areas to capitalise on the grant we provide.”

Officials say BTFEC has funded 217 projects aimed at environmental conservation amounting to Nu 1,171,419,361 since its establishment in 1992.

The Department of Forests and Park Services (37.86 percent) has benefitted the most followed by civil society organisations (8.51 percent) and Department of Livestock (6.86 percent).

Officials say that proposals from the rural communities have remained minimal. Of the 70 proposals BTFEC received since December last year, more than 50 are from the agriculture ministry.

“We believe that the true conservationists are the people in the villages who are at the forefront battling issues like human-wildlife conflicts, forest fires and water shortages,” said the programme officer. “It is also to provide equal opportunities and establish a level-playing field for all the Bhutanese.”

A participant said that if approved, the grant would make a major difference in the lives of the rural communities. “There are growing concerns over drinking water shortage, degrading pasturelands and fallowing lands in the eastern parts of the country,” he said. “Most of the time, the planned budget is not enough to address all these issues.”

BTFEC has a total of Nu 450M allocated in their strategic plan III that began from 2015 and would close in 2020.

Meanwhile, a similar workshop was conducted last month in Punakha for the western part of the country.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang