The decline in the practice of rearing sheep in the highland community of Merak and Sakteng in Trashigang, which is the essential source of wool to weave their traditional outfits, has led to the marked downfall in the production of the local textiles and costumes.

Towards reviving and conserving the indigenous practice of rearing sheep in the community, a Community Based Organisation called Bhuchu Kewa Zangpo Amtshu Deytshen has plans to incorporate improved wool processing, local attire, and textiles weaving.

A group of more than 90 members plans to mechanise wool processing to keep their unique dress culture alive and learn the improved method of dyeing and weaving for income generation and livelihood.

The chairperson of the group, Nima from Merak, said that over last one decade, the development and availability of imported pants and shirts had severe impact on age-old tradition and local textiles. “The unique dress the nomads wore daily has declined. We have the opportunity to export the products across the border to Arunachal Pradesh.”

With the initiative that looks to providing an opportunity to generate income and to improve livelihoods, the chairperson said that the community would be encouraged to rear sheep.

Today there are more than 2,000 sheep in Merak. There are more than 300 households in the community, according to the record with the gewog.

About 20 similar projects worth Nu 37.7 million from across the country, funded by European Union through Helvetas Bhutan were exhibited on the closing day of three-day peer learning symposium held in Thimphu.

The symposium included Civil Society organisations (CSO) and Community Based Organisations (CBO), which presented the achievements, learning, and challenges faced while working with the respective projects.

The symposium was aimed gaining the insights of the projects, focus on effective community facilitation, and enhance coordination, collaboration and knowledge sharing among CSOs, and CBOs.

Programme officer with Bhutan Cancer Society, Tenzin Yangden, said there were many CSOs and CBOs but only a few worked together. “Collaboration among CSOs and CBOs was the challenge. CBOs are good at working in the community level whereas it’s difficult for the CSOs to mobilize people in the grassroots.”

Lack of expertise, planning, documentation and inadequate human resources, among others, were some of the challenges presented by the representatives at the symposium.

The projects presented were categorised based on four major themes of supporting civic awareness, women’s in political and social empowerment, socio-economic empowerment initiatives, and vulnerability reduction initiatives.

The current project has reached out to about 1,818 people through its intervention, including vulnerable groups like youth, disabled and underprivileged sections of the society, according to the reports of the projects.

Director with Gross National Happiness Commission, Rinchen Wangdi, said that about USD 800,000 were approved for the projects related civil society organisations to implement the projects in 12th Plan.

At the end of the seminar, capacity development plan 2019, developed based on validation of the existing capacity and training need assessment of CSOs, was launched to assist CSOs in human resource development.