The One Gewog One Product (OGOP) Development Project
Empowering rural communities and uplifting Bhutanese farmers’ livelihoods towards the attainment of Bhutan 2020: A vision for peace, prosperity and happiness
Constrained by limited expertise and exposure, Bhutanese farmers lacked opportunities to create and develop products that could serve other commercial purposes beyond their household consumption. Indeed, there were few economic opportunities and low employment in rural areas despite ample natural resources and their rich indigenous art, craft and food. Accordingly, development of local agricultural products based on Thailand’s experience was addressed by His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan during an audience H.M. granted to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ delegation in 2014. This was one of the initiatives where Bhutanese farmers could learn to improve their agricultural productivity and upgrade their products to meet national and even international markets.
Towards a Solution
To support Bhutan in its efforts to tackle the underlying issues – poverty reduction, self-reliance, enhancement of rural income and employment – reflected in the Bhutan 2020: A vision for peace, prosperity and happiness, Thailand, through the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), proposed two models: the Resource-based Market Promotion Model, which was mutually agreed and became the basis of the One Gewog One Product (OGOP) Model I Project (2016–2019); and the Tourism Attraction-based Market Promotion Model, which was later developed and called the ‘Sustainable Community Development Model based on the Application of the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) for OGOP villages in Bhutan’, or the OGOP Model II Project (2019–2022).
The OGOP Model I Project was implemented with the overall goal to improve the livelihoods and increase the incomes of Bhutanese rural communities, and its purpose was to develop quality, local productions for the local and international market, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 (No poverty) and SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth). Since the project’s formulation stage, stakeholders from both sides including experts, relevant government agencies and the target communities in Bhutan were engaged to discuss and share valuable insights. Embracing the demand-driven and participatory approaches at its core, these consultative and planning processes took almost one year. As a result, the Project was agreed and founded upon the Resource-based Market Promotion Model similar to the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) Programme of Thailand. Launched in 2001 with the aim to eradicate poverty, the OTOP Programme has continued to be one of Thailand’s important local economy’s stimulus initiatives through the promotion of entrepreneurship at the community level. Built on Thailand’s best practices and tried solutions, the Project under the Queen’s Project Office’s leadership was deliberately studied by both sides and hence tailored to meet specificities required by the Bhutanese context.
In this light, the Project aimed to deliver three outputs: quality OGOP products; improved markets for OGOP products; and enhanced cooperation among OGOP communities and partnerships encompassing a variety of activities. These activities include workshops, study visits, a dispatching of experts and volunteers, provision of equipment and materials, OGOP publication and promotion, marketing and business planning, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Moreover, Bhutanese delegates also gained hands-on experience at the annual OTOP City Fairs held in Thailand in 2017 and 2018, in which the OGOP products were featured, attracting a large number of visitors each year. In 2017, the OGOP products were sold for around Nu. 1.7 million (approximately US$29,900) at the City Fair. In addition, the OGOP products were exhibited at global-wide markets including during Bhutan Week in Delhi, India and the Global Forum on Inclusive Trade for Least Developed Countries at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, which is in line with the ‘Bhutan Everywhere’ Policy.
The Project’s achievements to date are remarkable in both qualitative and quantitative terms, outcomes and outputs, surpassing both countries’ expectations. As of September 2019, 148 OGOP products (48 over the target) and 65 innovative products (30 over the target) or products that are new to the Bhutanese market have been developed. Publications on OGOP products’ marketing strategy as well as guidelines and standards have been released. Revenue from the export of OGOP products, whose target was only Nu. 2 million, actually totalled Nu. 16.41 million. Indeed, the number of OGOP groups created to form a network of producers and suppliers was 72 against the target of 60, and the number of self-reliant farmers and employees created (1,132) was 1,032 over the target of 100. Cash income of OGOP producers totalled Nu. 30.32 million (or around Nu. 0.32 million over the target). Moreover, two OGOP shops operated by the Queen’s Project Office were established at Paro International Airport and in Thimphu while a new shop to be located at the craft bazaar in Thimphu is under construction. In addition to these verifiable indicators, the Project has brought an unexpected positive impact: lessons from developing OGOP products help provide recommendations for Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority’s (BAFRA) existing guidelines and standards. They also help increase demand for local raw materials, i.e. honey and buckwheat, and hence production, which helps boost the local economy.
From the Thai perspective, the lessons learned have been mutually reinforcing, and Thailand has also acquired innovative ideas and solutions. Moreover, these outputs, outcomes and positive impacts highlight the multiplier effect that this development cooperation has brought, despite its short timeframe. These led to the implementation of the OGOP Model II Project, which was followed up by Bhutan in order to build on the Model I’s developments and expand benefits to wider Bhutanese rural communities. This is achieved by embracing the SEP as a guiding principle in planning and decision-making, and in the path towards a self-reliant and sustainable community development, which is in line with Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) approach to development.
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