His Majesty The King, visited Dawathang village in Jomotshangkha, where 31 families have begun a new life, and granted land kidu.

The beneficiaries of the Kidu have received a plot of land on which they have built homes, as well as agricultural land on a user-right basis.

The Secretary of the National Land Commission, Pema Chewang, explains this as land kidu granted to individuals for the specific purpose of agriculture.

“As long as the people continue to work on the land and use it for agricultural production, they have the right over this land,” he said. “This means that the land will not be left fallow- whoever is willing to work on the land will have the right to do so.”

Such land cannot be mortgaged or sold, and can only be inherited by family members if they continue to use it for agricultural production.

He added that this would go some way in addressing the issues related to shortage of cultivable land, as well as food self-sufficiency.

60 percent of the total land in Bhutan is to be maintained under forest cover in perpetuity, and only about 7 percent of the total land area is suitable for cultivation.

“The user-right system ensures that people will make best use of this land,” Pema Chewang said.

Most of the people of Dawathang, who previously lived in the nearby villages of Serthi, Lauri, and Langchenphu, did not own any land, and lived in far-flung places.

Upon the Royal Command of His Majesty The King, the National Rehabilitation Programme, cleared and surveyed the land, connected it to road, electricity, and water, and provided support to the people so that they could build homes, farm the land, and rear animals.

The people in Dawathang grow maize, paddy and vegetables, and rear pigs and cows. Several of the villagers have taken up dairy and fishery, while others have begun growing ginger and betel nut as cash crops.

The villagers of Dawathang described their new lives as infinitely better, and most importantly, filled with hope for the future.

Aitaraj Rai, lived in Lauri before, and had to work on fields that belonged to others so that he could feed his family. Today, at Dawathang, he is the proud owner of a new home, some cows, and prosperous fields. With the help of the Project, he installed a biogas plant nine months ago, and has been using the gas for cooking for the past two weeks.

“It is a luxury to not have to use firewood,” he says with a big smile. “Our lives have changed completely since we began living here. We have received help to build houses, rear cows for milk, grow crops, and now we have the biogas. We have water in our homes, the school is near and we have electricity, so my children can study. I have hope for their future,” he said.

Another beneficiary, Yeshey Yangzom, echoes similar sentiments.

“We believed we were destined to a life of suffering, because we had a very hard life. But here, now, we have enough to eat, and for the children to attend school. We have also started earning some money, and saving for the future. I never imagined this would happen to us.”

The Rehabilitation Project is coordinated by the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon, National Land Commission, and Gross National Happiness Commission, with the support of the Ministries of Agriculture and Forests, Works and Human Settlement, Health, Education, Home and Cultural Affairs, Economic Affairs and Finance, and Bhutan Power Corporation.

The Project at Dawathang assisted the beneficiaries to build their 3-room homes, a kitchen and toilet, and animal sheds and biogas plants. Besides the farm road through the village, and power and water connections, the Project also helped set up solar fencing to keep wild animals away, irrigation channels, rice and flour mills, and a cornflake machine.

Similar villages have been developed in Pemagatshel, Lhuentse, and Haa.