Pemagatshel Dzong

Pemagatshel: How a Dzongkhag once known for large scale poverty is winning the battle

Lack of access to roads, infrastructure development in gewogs, access to market, water crisis and lack of exposure contributed to the highest poverty rates in Pemagatshel. However, the poverty rate has gone down in recent times.

Back in 2012 the poverty in Pemagatshel stood at 26.9 percent. In 2015, the poverty rate declined to 23 percent while the 2017 report, Poverty Analysis Report (PAR) by NSB showed poverty declined to 13.7 percent, which shows dramatic reduction and it falls somewhere in the middle. The fight, however, goes on and the target set by the Dzongkhag is to halve this poverty rate within the 12th plan.

In 2012, the highest poverty was in Nayskhar under Chimmong gewog, Mecury and Banglip under Dungmin gewog, Layshingri under Dechenling gewog and Kerong under Choekhorling gewog.

Tarayana, Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and Pemagatshel Dzongkhag played a vital role in bringing down the poverty rate with various facilities. Pemagatshel Dzongkhag is one of the most connected Dzongkhags today.

Phuntsho, the Pemagatshel Dzongda said that those chiwogs reported the highest poverty rates because they are the most distant chiwogs as they did not have access to roads.

He said, “When there is no access to roads, there is no income generation which ultimately keeps them away from other developed regions. Now, with intervention from different agencies everything has changed.”

“Our target to bring development in the Dzongkhag is to bring down poverty to a minimum. We are focusing more on chiwogs where the poverty rate is high with various means of income generation. We will do our best and in the shortest time possible; we want to bring it down to zero. In the 12th FYP, we should be able to bring it to 6 percent from 13.7 percent”, he added.

He said that Tarayana helped Chimmong and Dungmin gewogs while the Dzongkhag and GNHC helped Choekhorling and Dechenling gewogs in curbing down poverty. He said that a project called Commercial Agriculture Resilient Rural Livelihood Enhancement Project (CARRLEP) is one of the interventions to curve down the poverty.

In addition, in 2012, GNHC and Dzongkhag have introduced a program called Rural Enhancement Economy Advancement Program (REEAP). The interventions were mostly targeted in income generating activities. They construct houses for needy people too.

They help in farming and as a result they started having more source of income generation like livestock.

Milk and eggs production is almost sufficient, he said, adding that farmers’ cooperative are another intervention. The opening of highway from Nanglam to Gyelpozhing has contributed a lot in poverty reduction by giving larger market access.

He also said that if they can address the water crisis in Dzongkhag then poverty can be addressed impacted the most.

Meanwhile, Dzongkhag Thrizin, Chongshing Gup Pema Dorji said that Pemagatshel is the remotest Dzongkhag in the eastern region and moreover, there are chiwogs which are far from Dzongkhag where they have to travel two to three days by walking.

He said, “In the past, though government allocated a required budget and infrastructure facilities, we were not able to monitor well on how the facilities are being used. This can be one reason contributing to poverty.”

The other reason could be because people living in the remotest chiwogs do not get equal opportunity unlike other developed gewogs.

However, now with time and development, they now feel that Pemagatshel may not be the Dzongkhag with the highest poverty rates. They have ways to market their produce and have more exposures with a scope for business.

He said, “The chiwogs with high poverty is now closer to town due to road connectivity. We are now picking up and getting equal opportunity like any other developed chiwog. Since they are connected, they are now taking extra interest in poultry and farming.”

Poverty contributed to rural urban migration and Guntongs, he said, adding that people moved out in order to be self sufficient and due to lack of opportunities in the village.

Chhimong Gup Yeshi Wangdi shared that since Chimmong was far from the Dzongkhag headquarters, not much development could be brought in the gewog which is why it is a gewog with high poverty. People did not have any exposure. However, with road connectivity they are now doing better.

He said, “The furthest chiwogs under the gewog is Chiphung and Nayskhar and these two chiwogs cultivate only oranges. However they could not generate good income due to lack of market. Starting last year, they have initiated winter chili cultivation which is helping in income generation.”

To reduce the poverty in the gewog, he said that the GC road should be further enhanced giving more opportunity towards business and other infrastructure development in the gewog. “Though we get good support from Dzongkhag Agriculture Department, it is challenging without sufficient water. So this issue needs to be addressed first. We have proposed for an irrigation channel in the 12th FYP,” he added.

If they get water than they may be able to cut down poverty as they will be able to produce more farming products leading to good income generation, he said.

Dungmin Gup Ugyen Tshering said that the poverty rate in the gewog is very high as it is one of the remotest gewogs.

“They also had no market to sell their produce and therefore, they did not show much interest in farming. They ate what they produced. Oranges were only source of income and that also they carried on their backs. They would walk for three days to reach market,” he said.

However, now development is taking place and with road connectivity from Pemagatshel to Nanglam, and from Nanglam to Gyelpozhing, the poverty has reduced due to market access and selling their produce at the roadside.

People are now learning new things, he said, adding that access to internet have helped them a lot, by giving them the opportunity to explore more businesses.

“There are groups of people who are still in poverty. These are also old single parents with no one to look after them. These groups of people have received Kidu though,” he said.

To bring down poverty to zero, he said that it is the responsibility of every individual. “We get full support from government; we have access to all infrastructures. So, it is on us how to use it in a positive way for poverty reduction,” he added.

In addition, he said that government and other agencies have initiated numerous initiatives to encourage farming and after doing so, if one fails then that would be huge loss to the government.

He said, “Coming up with small industries will help in poverty reduction. A project like Kuri Gongri in Durungri can help and we see the potential of coming up with small industries. We also see the feasibility and we have proposed to the government on this matter in 2014. We hope that we can include this in our 13th FYP.”

Sonam Tshering, a 53-year-old from Dungmin said that they are now happy as they have access to infrastructure and they get required services as and when they need it. “A decade ago, we had no access to road and that left us disconnected from other gewogs. We had no way for income generation,” he said.

There were times when they do not even know where capital city is, forget about knowing a thing about outside world, he said.

Choezom, a 39-year-old from Chhimong said that with development they do not have to suffer unlike in the past. “There is no situation where we have to walk two to three days to reach Dzongkhag office nor do we have to carry our produce until the market.”

“The required facilities are at our door step and we are thankful to government and Dzongkhag. We would be glad if the water issue in Pemagatshel can be addressed and that may help in poverty reduction,” she added.

This story is published under the Content Grant Scheme of the Department of Information and Media, MoIC.

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