Lhakpa Quendren   & Dechen Dolkar

Ugyen Yeshi Dorji is learning the art of making swords through the De-suung Skilling Programme (DSP) in Thimphu.

DSP is one of the successful projects in the country. It is a Royal Project initiated by His Majesty The King of Bhutan in 2021.

DSP is a series of short-term training in various fields. Built on the spirit of volunteerism, ethics, community service, integrity and civic responsibility. De-suups serve during disaster operations and participate in charitable activities and social services.

The training areas include building and construction, information and communication technology, electro-mechanics; beauty, fitness and wellness; agriculture; finance; accounting; tourism and hospitality; arts and craft; and screen and media.

Just like many youths joined the de-suung programme when the nation was going through a difficult time, Ugyen joined de-suung in 2020 after he graduated from Japan in 2019.

Ugyen is one of the six full-time sword and blade-making instructors at Taba DSP centre in Thimphu.

He received training in the ancient art of sword-making in the first cohort in 2021 under master blacksmiths from the Philippines.

With the skills and knowledge he acquired from the DSP, he is training 17 de-suups to forge swords.

Ugyen is a very focused person. He says art has enabled him to contribute to society. “When you follow your passion, fulfilment and happiness follow.”

DSP, he said, enhanced his ability not only in forging swords but also in construction and fabrication. “I can make a living out of these skills. We can start our own blade-making workshop because we now have the necessary skills.”

He said that the skills gifted by His Majesty The King are completely different from other programmes.

“Culturally, blacksmithing is a dying art in the country. We got the opportunity to revitalise it,” he said, adding that Bhutan-made blades can be showcased to the tourists.

“Long time ago, Bhutanese knives were of the standard of Qatari knives, which are among the best in the world. We are trying to improve the standard again,” he said.

He said that the best Bhutanese knives are today found only in museums outside the country.

The training focuses mostly on modifying the Bhutanese bachhem—work knife.

“We make different versions of blade aiming at perfection,” he said. “We are trying to improve to meet the international market standards.”

Like Ugyen, thousands of de-suups have been trained in various high-quality skills at different centres across the country.

The interim chair of the DSP, the chairperson of the National Council, Tashi Dorji, said that public agencies, private institutes, as well as international experts, provide the training.

“Depending on the courses, some skilling programmes are conducted in existing training institutes, which are equipped with facilities needed for the courses,” said the interim chair of DSP.

He also said that the focus of the programme is to ensure high-quality and impactful short-term training that is aligned with leading international standards. Its strength lies in bringing in foreign talent, skills and technology. It complements the efforts of the Royal Government’s technical and vocational education programmes.

So far, around 6,783 de-suups have been trained in various skills.

The DSP training centres are spread across the country. The centres are located at Taba in Thimphu, Dzongkhalum in Trongsa, Phaduna in Punakha, Yonphula in Trashigang, and Serzhong in Gelephu.