Ideas pitched to change Bhutanese dietary habits

If all goes well, the youth of four gewogs of Bongo, Dungna, Samphelling and Metakha in Chhukha may start new and innovative businesses in their respective community soon.

18 youth, mostly school dropouts, pitched business ideas last week, which will not only benefit entrepreneurs, but will also bring positive changes in the dietary habits of the people. Their raw ideas were refined by mentors in groups for three days to change the consumption patterns and dietary habits of Bhutanese. The business is also expected to boost local income.

The Agriculture Research and Development Department under the agriculture and forests ministry had initiated the training, where participants were groomed on their raw business ideas. The participants unlike other business ideas had to identify problems of the people about their dietary habits with negative health implications. Now, after identifying the problems, these participants can innovate better options looking at the health of the people with the locally available agricultural products. Then they could start producing consumable products for the people.

“Doing so, the business can bring positive impacts to the people’s health, entrepreneurs and the society as a whole,” said Tshedrup Dorji, Agriculture Supervisor at Agriculture and Research Development Center at Yusipang in Thimphu.

Meanwhile, the ideas will be presented to donors and funding agencies in June this year. The agencies can then buy the idea and start funding for the business project after selecting the idea. The ideas, which are human centered, are also expected to enhance national food and nutrition security involving the youth.

A group from Metakha has pitched an idea about supplying buckwheat biscuits in the market. The group plans to start mass scale buckwheat cultivation and bake because of its health benefits. “Unlike other cereals, buckwheat has better health benefits and also it will encourage the farmers to cultivate,” a participant said.

A group from Dungna wants to supply processed lentils to the market. The group plans to target athletes by supplying consumable lentil juice, which has a high protein.

Sancha Bir Tamang from Dungna said cultivating and supplying lentil juice to the gym goers has huge scope. “It will also benefit the community and curb import,” the 21-year-old said, adding that team spirit and good research are important aspects of entrepreneurship, which he assures to do before starting.

“We have to look into various aspects before starting any enterprise, including health and community apart from income,” he said, which he learnt from the program.

Meanwhile, Sampheling gewog has plans to start gourd apple juice, which can replace morning tea for better health. “Since consuming too much tea has health implications, we are planning to supply gourd apple juice, which will also change drinking habits of the people,” Karma Tamang said.

The supplying of organic chili pickle was another idea pitched by the group of youth from Bongo. “We will encourage farmers to grow chili and start a plant if we get funding,” Thinley Namgay, 23 from Bongo, said.

Chimi Rinzin, the Program Coordinator from the agriculture department said, “Participants can also pitch different innovative ideas for the community and income. They can develop innovative ideas which can bring positive changes in the dietary habits of Bhutanese and generate income for the community.”

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing