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A programme that has transformed the living conditions for tens of thousands of people in remote communities in Bhutan through integrating housing, sanitation, livelihoods and food security has today – Thursday 16 December 2021 – been named a Silver Award Winner in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

Bhutan’s remote rural communities, many of whom are indigenous, often lack access to adequate housing and basic sanitation services. This, coupled with food insecurity and lack of economic opportunity, makes it difficult for people to break the cycle of poverty.

The Tarayana Foundation’s Integrated Community Development for Poverty Reduction programme empowers communities with the skills to build their own homes, enhance agricultural productivity through improved farming techniques, and starts an income-generating business with a loan and support from the Foundation’s own microfinance institution.

Following consultations with the community, beneficiaries selected for housing improvement are trained in masonry and carpentry and work together as a group to build their new homes. Tarayana provides the materials free of charge and the group provides the labour.

Since 2007, almost 2,500 houses have been built and 1,000 toilets installed, while approximately 50,000 people have accessed training to develop skills and generate income. Through this collaborative and holistic approach, the programme addresses the causes of poverty and promotes long-term self-sufficiency for Bhutan’s remote rural communities.

Namgay Drukpa, 55, lives with his family, including four children, in a bigger home which has given them a new sense of belonging and comfort. He said:

“Our old home couldn’t stand bad weather, and there have been so many incidents where we thought our home was going to collapse, but not anymore. Before we all used to be cramped in a small room, so I am much happier for my children because they can now enjoy their own space and privacy. We would like to thank the Foundation for bringing our dream into reality.”

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “The quality and the scale of what has been achieved through this project is phenomenal. Tarayana Foundation has helped thousands of people in remote and poor villages across Bhutan enabling them to rebuild their homes and redesign the way in which they earn an income. The project has provided a most extraordinary ‘step change’ in the quality of life in hundreds of villages across Bhutan.”

The World Habitat Awards Advisory Group judging panel said:

“This project is quite impressive in its scale. They focus on sustainable housing in all the right ways – local technology, local people, local skills, local materials – and that’s exactly the way it should be done. It’s a comprehensive, people-centred approach, ensuring that local needs are met. Their approach to the integration of jobs, especially in agriculture, makes the whole housing and habitat approach much more sustainable.”

The World Habitat Awards are organised by World Habitat in partnership with UN-Habitat.

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