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Monpas milk the Nabji trail

Khengpas, on the other hand, are more off the beaten track and less into tourists

Monpas, residing along the west bank of Mangdechu in Trongsa, 1100-1500m above sea level, benefit more from Nabji ecotourism trail than their neighbours, the Khengpas, a recent study says.

The Nabji ecotourism trail, developed and opened in November 2006, consists of a five-day trek through three Monpa villages (Jangbi, Wangling and Phrumzur), and three Khengpa villages (Nimshong, Nabji and Korphu), which have a total population of 1,352 people.

Highlights of the trek include visits to small Bhutanese mountain villages inhabited by the Monpas, diverse forests of the park, with possible sightings of the endangered golden langur and rufous-necked hornbill, mostly in Monpa villages.

A majority of tourists avoid Khengpa villages, because the path is very difficult and rugged with not much sight seeing," researcher Ugyen Namgyal said, adding that most tourists camp only in Monpa villages that provide all services, such as porter and cooks.

Monpas, thought to be the first settlers in Bhutan, practise a mix of animistic shamanism and Buddhism.They are expert cane weavers and bamboo crafters, using their skills for house construction and making baskets.

Tourism is also influenced by the Monpas' strong relation and communication with the private sector, including investors, developers, planners and tourist managers from outside the community," the study by the Wildlife Conservation Division official says.

The study also states that, in addition to porter and cooking services provided to tourists, Monpa residents earn additional money by visiting tourist campsites at night, to make customary offerings, such as eggs, ara, oranges and cucumbers in honour of their guests.

While they don't ask for payment in return, it's a cultural expectation that tourists give money, and tour guides are there to educate tourists about local customs. These earnings, along with occasional tips for porter, guide and cook services, are an important source of revenue for participating Monpa households," Ugyen said. We no longer travel to Bumthang and Langthil for wage work, and instead remain in the village and farms, in addition to serving tourists," said a resident of Jangbi village. Tourism revenue has saved me seeking loan from others to pay land tax and education fees for my children."

The Monpa villages, Ugyen said, have in general more household labour available, compared with Khengpa communities, and earn income mainly through porter services.

Although the three Khengpa villages lack labour or pack ponies, the infrastructure development activities carried out in the community have attracted local people to engage in contract work and this results in less interest in tourism.

Khengpa village household involvement in tourism services, especially providing porter and pack pony services, has decreased over the years, according to the study.

Khengpa households with ponies are interested in providing porter services to government officials, because they earn more income by not having to pay 10% of their gross earnings into the village community development fund."

Community development funds (CDF) were envisioned by the Nabji trail founders to be an important means for community-benefit sharing from income earned from tourism.USD 7 per tourist per night is charged, along with the 10 percent as revenue generated from tourism services, to be used for the community's wellbeing.
Monpas have higher CDF savings, at about USD 3,000 a season, because tourists typically stop in their villages; whereas, for Khengpas, it is only about USD 500 a season.

Forestry officials said that Jigme Singye Wangchuck national park (JSWNP) developed Nabji trail, in collaboration with Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators and other NGOs, to benefit the local households and community.

The trail, forestry officials say, has five campsites, with each providing basic amenities to tourists, such as camping grounds to accommodate about six tents, water tap, toilets, a separate kitchen furnished with utensils, and a covered pavilion for various uses, such as dining and cultural performances.

It provides an easy low-altitude trekking during the winter months from November to May, providing revenue that includes income earned from rotational porters, guides and cooks, which are mandatory services for all tourists, who hike the Nabji trail.

A modest, but declining, number of international tourists have trekked the Nabji trail each year since it began in November 2006. In the first year, 45 international tourists visited the park; it increased two folds 91 tourists in 2007; in 2008 there were 84, and the number declined to 59 in 2009.

Source: Passang Norbu, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2012


Community Tourism: Nabji Trail Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park
Nabji Trail 190 KB PDF Download
Source SNV Bhutan
Key Achievements
In only three months, the project has generated an estimated US$ 7,000;
This amount is estimated to increase to about US$ 10,000 in 2007;
In 2006, approximately 210 households in six villages received a supplementary income from the tourist trail;
Part of the income from the project was paid into the Community Development Funds to fund communal expenses;
The project has shown great potential for increasing gender equality, although this is yet to be fully realised.
Source: SNV
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SNV Bhutan

The village communities along the trekking trail, namely the villages of Nimshong, Nabji, Korphu, Kupdra/Phrumzor and Jangbi, have expressed enthusiasm for the project and agreed to establish tourism management committees to plan and manage sustainable tourism development.

The committees are supported by the JSWNP staff, with the training, coaching and technical advice of the SNV adviser, DoT and ABTO.

Source: SNV 2007
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