Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The GNH oil to hit market soon

Dhom Makhu – natural and organic oil to soon hit market
Tanden Zangmo
 In a month or two, Bhutanese consumers especially the Thimphu lot will get to taste natural, local and purely organic edible oil which the educated youth cooperative called Happy Green Cooperative in collaboration with the members of Goenshari Community forests management group in Punakha will be introducing in the market.
Locally known as Dhom Makhu, the oil is an extract of a certain wild berry, a berry fruit of a Symplocus tree. It is extracted by a traditional way of which the community used to do in the olden days. It is edible oil but its use not exhaustive. The oil is traditionally known for its effective body massage, cosmetics and others.
According to Chief Executive Officer of the cooperative, Sangay Rinchen, forests is a food bank and this so-called berry grows abundantly. “It was there growing in the forests from the time immemorial, but has not been explored.” Now with intervention of the Happy Green Cooperative, the oil will be extracted and sold in the market.          
Traditionally, the community members of Drachukha village of Goenshari gewog in Punakha practiced such oil extraction technique making them self-sufficient of such need. However, the practice discontinued after industrial cooking oil flooded the market. “Cheap and readily available cooking oil in the market discouraged the farmers, killing such a unique tradition,” Sangay Rinchen pointed out.
But soon it will be revived and made the oil available in the market which will serve as a steady flow of income to the beneficiaries including the farmers.  Happy Green Cooperative CEO Sangay Rinchen added that it is a green initiative focused towards employed youth and marginal farmers, which the group is governed by. “It is a need based initiative in conjunction with the available forest resources,” he said. He believes that Community forests should be a benefit-oriented, not solely focused on the conservation side.
A preliminary resource assessment was done to quantify the berry availability, which according to the exercise is substantive that the project is viable. “The fruit if left in the forests will fall to waste accruing no benefits to the communities living in the vicinity,” he said adding, “Rather we can reap lots of benefits from such a wild fruit.”
According to him, there is also not much of investment needed for the venture since majority of the household has the indigenous equipment to ooze out oil from the berry. A piece of plank, few boulders, bamboo basket and few pots and pans are all that is required for such an indigenous oil extraction process.
As practiced in the past, the berries are harvested from the forests and left to dry for few days. When it is dried to the right temper, then the fruit is pounded. The fruit needs to be steamed before it is finally pressed to ooze out the oil. The oil that flows through a curving on a small piece of wood is collected in an appropriate container.
The group is also in the process of branding and acquiring an Intellectual Property right. The product once in the market will be launched under the brand name, “Local Hero, inspired by Gross National Happiness.” The product will be professionally packaged in order to increase its shelf life.
This, Sangay Rinchen said, is to give a modern touch to the traditional product. Besides packaging, even the traditional method of oil extraction will also be blended with modern technologies. “There is also need to see the contents and other uses of such oil,” he emphasized.
But it will be a cautious approach. “Before jumping into mass production, we’ll have few trial products,” he said. He also went on to say that if the venture is successfully, the export is also within his mind. He is divulged that such natural oil will be catered to the customers through an organic restaurant at Changzamtog, Thimphu, which is the restaurant belonging to the cooperative group themselves.
An egg omelet fried in berry oil or a fern top pickled in the same oil. The recipe sounds as bizarre as his idea. But the professional chefs in the high-end hotel like Taj Tashi have shown positive response. “If their customers who mostly are foreigners come to like the menu, it is as good as exportable.”


The abominable snowman ‘drops’ by Thrumshingla

In what could reignite Bhutan’s long held fascination for the Yeti or ‘Migoi’ an official report filed by a Ranger of the Thrumshingla National Park on 3rd September, 2012 claims the discovery of ‘Yeti droppings’.
Thrumshingla Park Ranger Pema who had gone to Tang, Bumthang to file a report of cattle killed by a Tiger collected the Yeti droppings from a Mr. Dorji Wangdi a resident of Benjibi village in Bumthang.
The report says that Dorji Wangdi in turn collected the ‘Yeti droppings’ on 14 August 2011 at around 9 am from the Kumurting blue pine forest.
Mr. Dorji Wangdi apparently enjoys some credibility among Yeti watchers as the report mentions that sometime in the 1980s the same farmer sighted the foot print of a Yeti, collected the scat (droppings) and hand it over to His Majesty the Fourth King.
The park officials have collected the dropping and brought to the office for DNA analysis to confirm the ‘species’.
Internationally the scientific community generally regards the yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence but there are those who also believe in its probable existence due to the partial evidences made available so far.
One of the most significant evidences was discovered in 2001 in Bhutan when British scientists came across a strand of hair deep in a forest which on DNA analysis did not match any known animal like bear, ape etc.
The hair was found on the inside of the hollow of a cedar tree. The team found foot prints near the tree and scratches inside the hollow.
Some of the hair was taken back to the UK for DNA testing. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine and one of the world’s leading experts on DNA analysis examined the hair. He had then said in an interview, “We found some DNA in it, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not a human, not a bear not anything else we have so far been able to identify. It’s a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn’t recognize before”.
“The story of a Migoi was told to me but I haven’t really encountered a Migoi yet and my belief is we could have it according to the true stories which were passed down the generations,” said Dr. Sonam Wangyel Wang formerly of the forest department and now with the Royal Education Council.
He also said that a team was sent to various suspected places in the country in a hunt of yeti after people believed its existence but could not encounter with it. He added that scientifically he believes that the Apes and Bigfoot once existed but due to the climate change it might have disappeared.
When asked about the recent sight of yeti scat in TNP Dr. Sonam Wangyel Wang said that the scat should be first analyzed and matched with the depiction about the yeti (recorded scientifically).
The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a large national park, was created in part as a place to protect it. Once Bhutan bothered to set up a postal system, in the early 1960s, Bhutan issued stamps honoring the Migoi.
Bhutan’s Nature Conservation Department has around half a dozen framed plaster casts mounted on the wall. The frames show the outline of irregular grayish footprints around 12 inches long. All, according to small signs, come from yetis.
Many traditional beliefs remain deeply ingrained in Bhutan that the yeti exists while among the modern and educated community the Yeti is more myth then real.