MAIN STORY: It was 27 years ago when the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) reached Bhutan. And since then, it has been Bhutan’s important development partner.
This international development organisation, which was established in the Netherlands in 1965, is celebrating golden jubilee this year.
Head of the agriculture and forest sector under SNV, Binai Lama, said that SNV was exploring countries in the ‘South’ to provide development services, especially in the field of poverty alleviation and capacity development.
“It was therefore natural that SNV decided to extend development partnership to the government, as a partner to help implement poverty alleviation strategies and programmes,” he said.
SNV Bhutan office started as a small programme, staffed by a few Dutch volunteers and staff. It employed a few additional Bhutanese staffs for office support and logistics services. The organisation started under a country management agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Bringing in skilled personnel to help relieve manpower shortage was one of the main areas that SNV focused on when the organisation began. SNV started with the two basic aims: to participate and support development activities in the developing countries and to create awareness in the Netherlands of the problems of the developing nations.
SNV supported the government in the areas of irrigation development, integrated pest management, rural water supply, sanitation and agriculture research, Binai Lama said. “With time and the demand for developmental services in various sectors, the interest and interventions of the organisation expanded. To suit the strategic development vision of the Royal Government, SNV underwent several changes to become a professional organisation to respond positively to the development challenges of a rapidly growing Bhutan.”
Over time, SNV began providing services in key sectors concerning with food security, livelihoods, employment generation, health and energy. Focused interventions and programmes were also implemented in areas of agriculture production, irrigation and water management, environmental friendly farm roads design and construction, non-timber forest products and community forestry, tourism, support to local governance, strengthening farmer groups and cooperatives, climate smart agriculture, water, sanitation and domestic biogas, among others.
Today, a team of national staff manages the organisation with inputs from short-term expatriates. The staff work under three major sectors – Agriculture and Forest, Renewable Energy and Water and Sanitation.
SNV’s country representative, Kencho Wangdi, said the organisation’s main mandate is to build capacities of local stakeholders including government, public, private and civil society sectors. “SNV has collaborated with our local partners in implementing development programmes and projects in line with national development priorities and programmes.”
Kencho Wangdi added that some of the biggest challenge lies in sustaining funding for our programmes as many donors seem not to be interested to continue investing in Bhutan. “SNV remains committed to partner with the government and local partners to continue our work in Bhutan. We are continuously looking for international development donors and project funding agencies to continue our work and contribute to the achievement of sustainable goals of Bhutan.”
Ugyen Rinzin, project leader for Rural WASH Project, said that as the organisation evolves from Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS)-funded to self-mobilising CSO, it opens up to both opportunities and threats. “However, there are more opportunities than threats since it has high potential to perform better in a competitive world.”
Binai Lama said that with the help of SNV, considerable changes have taken place in the agriculture sector in Bhutan in the last 10 years.
The agriculture sector has made new strategic choices to enhance food and nutrition security, enhance sustainable rural livelihoods through market led production and employment generating activities,” Binai Lama said. “The emergence of farmer groups and cooperatives has given legal support and enhanced technical capacity of our farming communities to do better farm businesses.”
Binai Lama added that as the country slowly graduates from the least developed country status, international organizations such as SNV are facing a challenging time. “Many donors and international development agencies are not interested to continue funding development programmes in Bhutan because of economic growth that the country is experiencing. This has become a major issue for organisation like SNV Bhutan as getting projects and funding is becoming difficult every year.”
SNV Bhutan is part of SNV corporate, with the head office in Hague, the Netherlands. A managing board consisting of the CEO and four managing directors manage SNV corporate. SNV is operational in 38 countries with about 100 local offices. SNV works with about 90 different donors, 800 local partners, and employs about 1,365 staffs worldwide, of which 34% are female.
In its 50th year this year, SNV dedicates their trust and partnership with the country and all its partner institutions and beneficiaries.
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By Thinley Zangmo