Where is Samdrup Jongkhar?

Samdrup Jongkhar ‘Dzongkhag’, or District, is situated in the southeastern part of Bhutan. It shares its borders with Pemagatshel Dzongkhag in the west and Tashigang Dzongkhag in the north, as well as with the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the south and east, respectively. Samdrup Jongkhar has a total area of 1,978.79 sq. km with elevations ranging from 200 m to 3,600 m above sea level; the majority of the land ranges from 600 to 1,200 m above sea level, and the flattest areas are in the south of the region, along the Assam border.

Who is the head of SJI?

SJI is a grassroots cooperative organisation founded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, in March, 2010. The current head of SJI is Dasho Neten Zangmo, based in Dewathang, east Bhutan. SJI is a project of The Lhomon Society, a registered Civil Society Organisation. The Samdrup Jongkhar public is encouraged and invited to participate and generate local leadership for SJI. There is now an active collaborative partnership between the civil society, government, and university sectors that should ensure the project’s success.

How is the project funded?

One of the most important goals of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative is for the region to become self-reliant, so that it no longer requires external funding or financial help either from donor agencies or from government ‘hand-outs’. The intention of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative is to rely on local community resources, skills, ingenuity, and mutual support to survive and prosper. However, in order to launch the project, we have to seek seed financing. Our intention is to reduce such dependence on external funding and rapidly to nurture a genuinely self-reliant and self-supporting Samdrup Jongkhar community that will no longer need to request external financial help.

The research dimension of the initiative has been funded by the International Development Research Centre in Canada and coordinated by GPI Atlantic, a Canadian non-profit research organisation with a long history of research, indicator, and measurement work in Bhutan in collaboration with the Centre for Bhutan Studies and National Statistics Bureau. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche had requested that the SJI begin with a strong research dimension and characterized its initial function as that of a ‘think tank’. Thus, the initial goal is to create a comprehensive profile of Samdrup Jongkhar that can act as a strong evidence base for future development actions, and as a baseline for future monitoring of progress. For that reason, initial fundraising efforts focused on this aspect of the SJI. IDRC is also funding the SJI’s Rainwater Harvesting project and research.

SJI’s core fund is funded by the Maitri Trust and Zero Waste projects are funded by the  Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation(BTFEC), Civil Society Organisation Fund Facility (CSOFF), UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programm and Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO).The Fund for Youth-led Initiative is funded by Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, while the fund for fabrication of Roto – Weeder is funded by the Bhutan foundation. Solar Dryer project have been granted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the GNH Commission-initiated Rural Economy Advancement Program (REAP) and

Is the government involved?

SJI, as a civil society based development initiative, is completely independent, but works in close collaboration with government agencies to fulfill its goals and in complete harmony with government goals and particularly with the country’s GNH development approach. Government leaders and agencies have voiced strong support for SJI—from the Honourable Prime Minister to the Agriculture Minister and Secretary, Secretary of the GNH Commission, Director of the National Statistics Bureau, and President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies.