1. Bhutan – The Olep community of Rukha
Bhutan’s government and royal family provide a role model in taking a long-term, holistic view on all decision making relating to its people and land and, with 70% of the country required by law to remain under forest cover, it is the only carbon negative country in the world. But Bhutan’s culture is vulnerable and is under threat from climate change and economic pressures. We work with the Olep of Rukha, Bhutan’s oldest indigenous community. Rukha valley is stunningly beautiful and the community is almost entirely self-sufficient in living off the forest and the land. The villagers are proud but fearful of their youth moving away and of their culture dying. Only a handful can still speak the traditional Ole language. It has been an honour to work with the community and to call them our friends. With them, we have created the first dictionary of the Ole language, completed a full survey of the Olep culture and built a community centre that doubles as a homestay to welcome visitors. The Bhutanese government now wants to replicate our Rukha project in 21 other areas.