4th Nomad Festival: bringing nomad culture to the forefront



Posted on 26 February 2013  | 
Shy and innocent, 16 year old Dorji Om always thought that life in the urban areas was utopian unlike in her community in the high, cold mountains of Laya. As she heard of new developments in the country on BBS radio, she felt that life was a celebration in the urban areas in the country.

Had it not been for the nomad festival, she would have never known how nomad culture is celebrated and revered in the country. “I never thought that people love our culture so much and celebrate it in such a way,” said Dorji Om.

She said, “I am really excited to be here and it gives so much pride to be representing my community here at the festival.”

For the last four years, the Nomad festival in Choekhor, Bumthang has been bringing together people from different nomadic communities in the country. The festival has not only been instrumental in preserving the nomad culture but has also helped sensitize people on biodiversity conservation and open new doors of opportunity for the highlanders. 

Supported by WWF and the Tourism Council of Bhutan, this year, the festival saw some 300 visitors along with nomads from eight dzongkhags in the country.

Lobsang Norbu, 51 from Merak attended the festival in 2011 and was there at the festival for the second time. “The last time I came for the festival, I could sell some of my dairy products and make some money because of which I decided to come again this year.”

For Lobsang, dairy farming is his main source of income and the festival has helped him market his products better and learn new farming techniques.

Dr. Samdru Chhetri, one of the visitors at the festival (who is also working on establishing the GNH centre in Bumthang said, “It is amazing how people from east and west are here. I am amazed by the sheer magnitude of the event.”

According to Choekhor Gup Sangla, the Dzongkhag Tshogdu Chairperson, “The event provides the nomad community a platform to explore trade of indigenous products and promote tourism.

Netra Sharma, the co-manager of Wangchuck Centennial Park said, “Although the festival has not had immediate impacts, it is gradually attracting people from important corners that will help yield positive results for the nomad communities in the long run.”

Bradley Mayhew, a travel writer working for Lonely Planet, one of the largest travel guide publisher in the world, was one of the visitors at the festival. He said that the company has been writing many travel guides on Bhutan and that, “It would be great to have one that focuses on such festivals.”

He said, “This is my fourth year in Bhutan and I think there is a lot of potential for tourism in the east.”
Hereafter, there are plans to invite nomads from other countries so that the festival is recognised internationally.
Dorji Om
Dorji Om (extreme right) with her team mates from Laya
© WWF-Bhutan Enlarge

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