Rural areas in Bhutan face many challenges. Bongop community has its own challenges. At the 3rd Tshogpa meeting, we discussed on the challenges Bongop community now faces and tried to find solution among ourselves. At the outset, we would like to thank every Bongop who took part in this important exercise.
We divided ourselves into five groups with five people in each group and discussed on the following main issues.
- How to generate Bongop Tshogpa fund?
- Where to keep Bongop Tshogpa utensils?
- How to solve logging and bad road condition issues in Bongo, Phasuma, Jungley and Zamsa
- How to solve the difficulty faced by people of Bongo village in particular to perform Kuchoed at Lhakhang?
- How to start income-generating activities in villages?
- How to bring Bongops from other villages together, eg. from Ketokha, Damji and other villages of Bongo Gewog?
- How Bongop elders can support Bongop youth?
- How to bring people together to celebrate village events together? example annual archery and
- Any other issues you find important to discuss? Please note down and also provide suggestions
The questions were many and some groups took almost one hour to find answers to all the questions listed here. There were many interesting answers and we have the pleasure to report them as presented by the group presenter from each group.
- How to generate Bongop Tshogpa fund?
All groups shared that the Bongop Tshogpa fund collection should be left to a voluntary contribution. A different view was shared by Group 5, saying that we should use MBoB facilities to even accept Tshogpa fund donations as low as Nu. 50 or 100. The Tshogpa further decided that henceforth, we may accept only MBoB online transfers as handling cash creates room for misuse.
2. Where to keep Bongop Tshogpa utensils?
At the end of December, Bongop Tshogpa Utensils have to be shifted to a new place as our present caretaker Aum Yangden is vacating her apartment. Group 1 suggested that we may have to rent a store to keep the utensils. Other than that, the rest of the groups could not suggest anything. At the end, the Tshogpa Chairman decided that Tshogpa Administrators will decide on which place and person will take care of the utensils.
3. How to solve logging and bad road condition issues in Bongo, Phasuma, Jungley and Zamsa villages
This is one issue which we have never shared in the public but today, as not to bias our meeting reports, we share that Bongops face a unique problem of losing our trees to BBPL factory and our roads being damaged by lorry trucks. The basic premise is that our laws have allowed people to sell trees from their private land and we cannot do anything about it. But the damages done by trucks carrying the logs are huge to our farm roads. We discussed on how to solve this issue, but nothing came out of it. All the groups shared that we may have to talk to the village Tshogpa, Chipon or LG leaders.
4. How to solve the difficulty faced by people of Bongo village in particular to perform Kuchoed at Lhakhang?
This is also the first time we are reporting the issue to the public. The people of Bongo village face a lot of difficulty to perform annual rituals at the Bongo Lhakhang. Through our research, we found that there are 11 different rituals performed at Bongo Lhakhang in one year. The Principal amount for one ritual, example Dhaw Dhangpa Nungney which is held for four days is Nu. 143,000. Someone who borrows this amount this year should do the four day ritual next year as an interest incurred on this amount. The interest is not calculated and not fixed but the one who borrowed should perform the ritual and give feast to the public for four days in a row. So a rough estimate form research found that the borrower have to spend about Nu. 90,000 to do the four day Nungney. In simple terms, the interest against Nu. 143,000 is Nu. 90,000. This is proving to be a huge burden for the people of Bongo village. We wanted it to be discussed among the Bongops at the meeting. Honestly, nothing much came out of any group except for the suggestion that Bongops who live in urban areas and who are working should volunteer to be incharge of the community rituals. We are yet to find a concrete solution to this but hope to work closely with people of Bongo to find a solution to this Kuchoed issue facing people of Bongo village.
5. How to start income-generating activities in villages?
There are hardly any income generating farming activities in our villages. We deliberated on this issue as well. Most of the solutions focused on starting alternative crops, finding market for the crops and also working closely with the agriculture staff of our Gewogs. We are yet to find a solution in this area as well.
6. How to bring Bongops from other villages together, eg. from Ketokha, Damji and other villages of Bongo Gewog?
This topic generated some interesting solutions. It ranged from appointing Chiwog coordinators, using social media, conducting get-together programmes and Group 5 even suggested we should change the name of Bongop Tshogpa to something else to show that all villages of Bongo Gewog are included in Bongop Tshogpa. We leave this to time and hope our website can reach out to many people from other villages under Bongo Gewog as well. Bongop Tshogpa is for everyone from Bongo Gewog, although we keep on talking about few villages only. This is entirely because we have no one from other villages who are taking active parts in Bongop Tshogpa activities. We welcome anyone who may want to be part of our activities.
7. How Bongop elders can support Bongop youth?
In this discussion, Group 2 were emotional. The elderly group representative even asked which areas Bongop elders have failed to support the youth. Programmes to know each other were suggested. Winter and summer programmes in villages were also recommended by all groups.
8. How to bring people together to celebrate village events together? example annual archery
On this topic, there were suggestions from three groups that people who dont come to celebrate annual archery in the villages should be made to pay fines. Group 2 suggested that we do proper research on why people skip such important community events. Suggestions were also made by some groups that people living in Thimphu should consider coming to such important village events.
9. Any other issues you find important to discuss? Please note down and also provide suggestions
Finally, this question was the most important among all in the group discussion. Many new issues facing our Bongop communities have surfaced from this discussion.
- Group 1 suggested that teenage pregnancy is becoming issue in our villages and that we should do something to solve it.
- Group 2 shared that we should reach out to all other Bongops who could not be part of us at the meeting. They also suggested that more Bongops should volunteer to be part of Bongop Tshogpa. Group 2 further suggested that our Bongop youths have to be educated on the negative impacts of alcohol and drugs.
- Group 3 came up with a unique issue saying that the trust level in our villages is breaking down. Everyone accuses another of taking profit out of money or material collections. It may be necessary for our Tshogpa to intervene in such collections and act as a neutral person so that people dont accuse each other of taking profit from money or material donations done in the villages.
- Group 4 suggested that we may need to look for Bongop volunteers who can go to schools and teach English.
- Group 5 recommended that Bongops living and working outside should serve as example to our younger generation with such activities benefiting our common people in the rural areas.
At the end of the group discussion, the Tshogpa Administrator summarised and shared that the suggestions from the group discussion will be considered in drafting the way forward and the list of activities the Tshogpa will carry out from now on.
We would like to thank everyone who shared the passionate and important views and solutions about issues facing our Bongop communities. We hope many will provide more solutions in the future. It also helps us to draft the way forward for Bongop Tshogpa, which is the topic of our next post.