YK Poudel

From improving sanitation to agricultural practices to enhancing the livelihood of farming communities, the Rotary Club of Thimphu (RCT) is behind several impactful projects.  

This came to light at the three-day International Rotary Conference, which concluded yesterday. Over 45 participants from Australia, Belgium, the UK, Nepal, and Bhutan attended the conference, which discussed the club’s achievements and plans for future collaborations. 

Health, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) education, waste management, and climate-smart agriculture were the centre of discussion.

The president of the RCT, Tsewang Rinzing, said that, as a member of the international rotary club, Bhutan receives funding from larger clubs worldwide and through global grants. 

“The most impactful engagement is the installation of water hydrants in schools,” he said. “In consultation with the health ministry, we have provided water filters to 136 schools so far.” The club has plans to provide more such support based on requirements. 

The founder and executive director of Bhutan Toilet Organisation (BTO), Passang Tshering, said that the RCT had enabled BTO to design a toilet pot called ‘chabto’ for people with disabilities and senior citizens. The Ministry of Health launched it in 2019.

“As part of the rotary-supported project, we provided 38 toilet pots to prisoners in 38 detention centres of the police,” he said, adding that the effective use of the assistance and need for additional toilet pots are yet to be evaluated.

BTO charges a certain fee for chabto on those who can afford but provides it free to needy ones by fundraising. “The initiative is taking toilets to those who cannot go to the toilet,” he said. 

Athang, one of the remotest gewogs in Wangdue, is another beneficiary of the Rotary Club. Athang Gup Dawa Gyeltshen said that the club supported agriculture sector development in his gewog by providing barbed wire fences, mini-power tillers, and greenhouses.

The gup said that earlier, due to the depredation of crops by wild animals, the farmers of Athang planted paddy once a year and left their fields fallow until the next season. Now, with the fields fenced, they can grow vegetables and cereals in different seasons, enhancing their source of income.

Three villages of Athang received fencing support. The 12-kilometre-long barbed wire fence goes around some 280acres of agricultural land.

Additionally, the villages received greenhouses and mini-power tillers. “If the gewog gets additional assistance of this kind, the farmers will be able to enhance their produce,” the gup said.

The economic development and marketing officer of Chukha Dzongkhag, Sangay Thinley, said that the assistance from the RCT supported the construction of better toilets in Bongo village. “It was the first village in Chukha to achieve 100 percent toilet coverage,” he said.  

“Improved sanitation has helped the village see a drastic reduction in the number of adults and children suffering from water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and dysentery,” Sangay Thinley said. “After a sample toilet was built in October 2017, 35 more toilets were built in the village.”

Moreover, with the support from the RCT, an agricultural project was initiated in September 2018, which helped farmers produce better. “Farmers can now earn an average annual income of Nu 5,74,050 from agriculture,” Sangay Thinley said.

To improve safe drinking water, a sky hydrant filter was installed in Bongo Primary School which benefits some 120 students from the village.

Looking ahead, Sangay Thinley says that venturing into eco-tourism and agri-tourism, and organising dzongkhag food fairs would encourage local communities to enhance their livelihood.

The RCT initiates projects related to the environment, agriculture, health, and education in the country.

The RCT was established on April 24, 2012, under the sponsorship of the government.

Worldwide, the Rotary International has over 1.5 million members and 4,000 clubs spread across 220 countries.