WFP working at 5,000 meters in the Land of Thunder Dragon
The Bhutan country team has sent us a write-up and photos of the extremely challenging logistics situation they face. Country Director Leo van der Velden has provided us with a first person account of WFP logistics operations in Bhutan:
Sandwiched between China to the North and India to the South, Bhutan is a small country with a population of about 670,000 (2008). By virtue of its topography, Bhutan is confronted with constraints of land-lockedness and difficult terrain as well as demographic constraints of a small and scattered population.
School feeding has been the major WFP activity since the start of the WFP assistance to the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) in 1974 with an increase in enrollment and attendance as main goals. The net primary enrollment rate increased the last ten years from an estimated 53 % (58% boys, 47% girls) in 1998 to an impressive 88 % (87% boys, 89% girls) in 2008, while attendance rates have also been dramatically increased.
WFP’s assistance in the next 5 years focuses only on school feeding and the gradual handing over of the project to RGOB under Development Project 10579.0 “Improving Rural Children’s Access to Basic Education with a Focus on Primary Education (2008 – 2012)”. The total budget of this programme is some US$ 16.9 million (including the RGoB contribution of US$ 5.6 million).
Apart from school feeding, WFP will continue to provide assistance to the construction of hostels, matron quarters (in schools with ‘informal boarders’ – the children who live too far from the schools live in makeshift camps next to the schools), toilets with shower blocks, kitchens and stores. Furthermore, funds are provided to purchase fuel efficient stoves and to establish the school agriculture programme in selected schools.
Mountainous terrain, steep slopes and poor roads facilities are the challenges for WFP logisticians in Bhutan as more than 70% of WFP beneficiaries are to be found in remote schools. Rivers become major obstacles because of rapid currents, rocky bottoms and the lack of bridges. Incessant landslides and road blockages during monsoon season and heavy snowfall over the high passes in the month of January and February demand that logisticians pre-position food commodities well ahead of the actual distribution schedule.
WFP food is transported in trucks from port/warehouses to different EDP’s (extended delivery points), transit stores and some accesible schools. From there porters, oxen, mules and yaks are used to transport the food to the more remote schools. Therefore, the success of logistics operations largely depend upon the yaks and mules at higher altitude and horses and oxen at lower regions of this mountainous Land of Thunder Dragon.
Special thanks to: Country Director Leo van der Velden for the text, Bhanu B Adhikari and the entire WFP Bhutan country team for the photos!