Aug 9, 2011

Going home educated




His name is Tharchen. In Dzongkha it means “accomplishment” or “success” or literally, it means “completion”. How symbolic are Bhutanese names? Do they have an over bearing influence on the character of the men or women, who carry those names? In keeping with his symbolic name, Tharchen went on to successfully become a dairy farmer at his village in Dagana.

Now there is nothing great an accomplishment in becoming a farmer, you’ll contend. But that’s not it. Tharchen understands what it means to become an educated farmer and shows the Bhutanese youths the way to self-employment. In this sense, he is a perfect role model to many young people in the country, especially when more and more people from the rural areas are pulled magnetically towards the urban centers.


Tharchen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Science from Sherubtse College. And contrary to the hope and wishes of his friends and family members, he abandoned the idea of building a career in the “comfortable” civil service by choosing not to appear CSCE in the following year of his graduation. As a college student he was studious and always willing to volunteer. He had demonstrated admirable leadership qualities. His best friends describe him as hard working and “determined guy” and a man full of “commitment”. And today on his farm, he does just that. 


On June 22, 2011, His Majesty the King granted an audience to a group of Bhutanese entrepreneurs at Lingkana Palace and Tharchen was one amongst the fortunate. He says he was highly honored to have received an audience with the King and now he is even more encouraged to work hard.

After his graduation, Tharchen really wanted to become a dairy farmer, but to his utter dismay his brother thought it was complete waste for a graduate to become a farmer; rather his brother persuaded him to prepare for Civil Service exams. That wasn’t something he really wanted to do. Some thought he would become a “laughing stock”. But Tharchen was undeterred and listened to the call of his heart.

There was pressure from all quarters that at times he too felt he maybe headed a wrong path. And that made him indirectly prepare for the CSCE. He served as a reporter for a local newspaper, but his hope of carrying out dairy farming project still lingered in his mind. His hope rekindled when he saw an article about the Loden Foundation and its mission to help enterprises that try to address poverty alleviation, creating employment and developing community. He then attended a weeklong course that was conducted by the foundation. With a few hiccups in between the Foundation accepted Tharchen’s proposal to set up jersey farm at his village.

“I did not care what people would tell me,” says the owner of the jersey farm. “I am going to do what I choose to do, so that when I look back a few years later, I would be happy and satisfied that at least I could pursue my dream with courage and commitment. ” He is thankful to the foundation for turning to dream into a reality.

Today Tharchen has four jersey cows and two heifers. His mother and sister help him with the business. His project aims to “develop a community dairy cooperative” that would “help and contribute” in income generation for farmers. “There is a lot of scope,” he says and adds that there is a very high demand for the dairy products in the market. Tharchen plans to diversify his project in future and venture into vegetable cooperatives. He plans to have outlets in Thimphu and other commercial centers in the country. He also has plans to set up private community cattle breeding centre and develop pastureland.

Tharchen’s is a wonderful story. How many of us go back to the village to work and share our experience with our people back home? How many of us possess the dignity of labor that we so much insist on paper? Of course now we would have some section of educated people willing to go back to their villages. Thanks to the formation of local government. Tharchen’s project goes beyond moneymaking business to help the village community.   

We have left farming completely to our farmers. I am not saying we should all leave our government jobs and become farmers. No. All I am saying is we need people like Tharchen to show our unemployed youths that there is a way out and that we need not have comfortable jobs in towns and cities to be really “happy”.

I am saying that with such projects and supports from organization like Loden Foundation, government would have less burden of providing jobs every year. Again I am not saying that government should encourage everyone to go home and take up spades. No. All I am saying is there are solutions to curve unemployment. We just need to come up with creative ideas and the organizations and agencies should come forward and help those enterprising youths. We need people like Tharchen to show us the dignity of labor.

30% of Bhutanese live in urban centers and our population is expected to double by 2040. More and more people flock to the cities in search of better opportunities for better livelihood and villages become emptier by the day. It is time that we make village life attractive.

Note: The above piece was published in Bhutan Times 

[Update: I called Tharchen on my way to Dagana and came to know that he is doing extremely well on his farm. However, I'm regretful of the fact that I was not in a position to see him feed his cows (mighty bull included) and milk them (his bull excluded though... hahaha). I had some other urgent calling. But surely I plan to meet him at his setting once in future.]