ADB grant for rural Bhutanese

Manila, January 18:

Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to provide a grant of $2 million to Bhutan through ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) for a pilot project to develop income-generating skills among rural Bhutanese.

The grant funded by the government of Japan is expected to help reduce poverty, which is persistent in rural areas, where people rely mostly on subsistence agriculture and are financially vulnerable during the off-farm seasons, stated ADB on Thursday.

The project will pilot a skills development programme in 25 geogs (group of villages) in three rural districts. To be carried out during off-farm seasons, the programmes will teach villagers basic modern trades such as carpentry, masonry, electrical wiring, plumbing, and construction planning.

The project will train 30 trainers and produce manuals and textbooks, and train at least 375 villagers throughout the programme’s four-year period. Graduates will then be registered on a website that can serve as a database for workers who can be hired for specific projects. If successful, the government will replicate the approach in the remaining 175 geogs in the country.

“The new skills developed under the project will not only provide villagers means to earn income during off-farm seasons, it will also save them house repair costs,” says Hiroyuki Ikemoto, an ADB economist and team leader for the project.

Villages will also benefit from the programme, as on-the-job training will include the construction of public toilets and hostels for schoolchildren. If requested, the project can also provide additional training in traditional arts and crafts, and maintenance of office equipment.

The project complements government’s Village Skills Development Programme and the ADBbacked Basic Skills Development Project, which expanded vocational education and training for new graduates, unemployed youth, domestic labourers, women, and people in rural areas.

The government and beneficiaries will contribute $340,000 equivalent toward the project’s cost, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will provide technical support through short-term JICA experts and JICA senior and junior volunteers.

The JFPR was set up in 2000 with an initial contribution of $90 million, followed by additional contributions totalling $155 million in 2002, and annual contributions of up to 2006 bringing the total amount to $360 million.