Women revitalizing Bhutan’s village

In an attempt to revive the lost cultural vibrancy of the village after many of its youth migrated to cities for better work opportunities, a woman-led community Nobgang Tsherim Detshen was formed in Nobang, Central Bhutan. Bhutan Government and the World Bank helped the group prepare a stewardship plan for the revitalization of the village and was trained to manage community-led social enterprises.

This project aims to develop a culturally- and context-sensitive community, while at the same time, creating economic opportunities to improve the livelihood of the villagers and address the issue of rural-urban migration. One of its main objectives is to enhance the local economy by using cultural resources through the establishment of community-owned enterprises and the development of products.

The village has a unique house design locally known as Kabu-Dharcham which is one of the unique characteristics of Nobgang village. The history of Nobgang dates back to the 18th century. It is said that when the 9th Je Khenpo Shakya Rinchen was meditating at Jachong Karmo, a cliff north of the valley, he saw a glittering light emanating from a hill in the distance. As he followed the shining light, he discovered that it was actually coming from a precious gem (norbu), hence the name Nobgang “the hill of the precious gem”.

This Kabu-Dharcham was turned into a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast which is run by six women and a man from the village. The building—previously used as a health centre by the government— was restored, adapted for new use, and handed over to the community.

The stewardship plan for the protection and management of Nobgang village as a cultural site was initiated under the guidance and patronage of Her Majesty the Gyalyum Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck with a vision of “a vibrant and self-sustained Nobgang community”.

After numerous consultations with different departments of the country, a “Cultural Stewardship Plan” was prepared to guide the revitalization of Nobgang. Based on the community’s vision of becoming “a vibrant and self-sustained community by 2030”, three broad actions have been identified and are now under implementation, including (i) the physical regeneration of the village in a culturally sensitive and climate-resilient manner, (ii) the value addition to its agricultural products, and (iii) the creation of income generating opportunities for women and youth.

The restaurant is quite popular amongst tourists because of the unique cuisine served to them. “Some of these authentic dishes have rarely been tasted by the Bhutanese, for instance, Nobgang Aezay Nyergum, which was served to the kings and high-ranking officials since the olden days when Punakha was Bhutan’s capital,” says Madem Pem, the community head.

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