Our hope is for Panbang to become a sustainable community that boosts youth employment, ensures food and water security, and preserves the environment and local traditions. These aspirations are achievable by making Panbang an eco-tourism hub.
Over 50 percent of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 25. With an increasing population in the country, a rise in youth unemployment is an emerging concern. This is further exacerbated by rural–urban migration: youth flocking to urban areas for a better life. But unemployment, substance abuse, and petty crimes are on the rise in urban areas, while farms are left fallow in the villages as an aftermath of rural–urban migration.
In October 2012, the Foundation initiated a discussion with a group of young residents from Panbang (all aged between 20 to 30) on starting a local enterprise focusing on tapping the eco-tourism potential of the area.
To take advantage of the rich biodiversity of the Royal Manas National Park and two big rivers, a group of 17 young people came together and decided to set up a whitewater rafting company. When such benefits become tangible for residents, they are most likely to support the conservation of the park and environment. This is the rationale that gave rise to the River Guides of Panbang (RGP), a local whitewater rafting enterprise.
Additionally, the RGP works closely with the Marangdut community and schools on sustainable agriculture and waste management. Marangdut is a subsistence farming community with 22 households and a population of about 105 people. This rural community in Panbang is where the Bhutan Foundation in collaboration with the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative under the Lhomon Society expanded an organic farming program in 2018, with particular emphasis on promoting sustainable agriculture through peer exchanges and engaging community-to-community interactions.
The RGP is the first community-based rafting company that caters to the locals and international tourists.
The project is a model social enterprise that retains and engages youth in their own villages.
The RGP works with the local community and schools on organic agriculture and educational activities.
The River Guides of Panbang is Bhutan's first community-based rafting company that specializes in high quality, environmentally responsible ecotourism. They arrange rafting trips, wildlife safaris, jungle drives, naturalist walks, and overnight stays at their Marang Jungle Lodge. They also engage with the local community members in organic farming and sustainable livelihood programs. The RGP members train and educate the students from local schools in rafting and bird watching besides regular awareness programs.
Help us realize our goals to develop Panbang into a sustainable community that boosts youth employment, ensures food and water security, and preserves the environment and local traditions.