The fifth edition of the Haa Summer festival held from July 5 – 6, 2016 was modest but a unique event. Dasho Dzongdag (Governor), the Chief Guest, opened the festival acknowledging smallness and remoteness of the Dzongkhags (District) in Bhutan.
He proudly mentioned, “Haa is one of the richest of regions in Bhutan; not economically but on the basis of abundant natural and cultural wealth”
He also commended the locals for their selfless efforts in preserving the pristine environment and its rich cultural heritage. The Dzongdag reiterated that such festivals are perfect way to showcase the richness and that the time was right to reap the resulting benefits from tourism based activities. This in turn, calls on for active participation from the locals to ensure the success and sustainability of such festivals.
Royal Society of Protection of Nature (RSPN) partook in the festival with the main objective of creating greater awareness on conservation and to raise funds for the White-bellied heron and Black-necked crane conservation in Bhutan. It was a good avenue to promote RSPN’s publicity products and also to showcase the ongoing Community-based Sustainable Tourism project (CSBT) in Haa. RSPN was represented by nine officials who promoted the newly adopted slogan, “I am a Friend of Nature”.
The occasional monsoon showers did not deter the tourists and locals alike from participating and adding life to the festival. Around 100 tourists and 700 locals on the first day and about 60 tourists and 550 locals on the second day were entertained through a variety of contemporary Bhutanese dances, traditional songs, solo songs, and folk dances of Haa. Few tourists were so excited that they joined other local performers to showcase their talents.
Traditional games such as archery, degor (similar to discuss) and sogsom (javelins) were some of the other activities that complemented the festival. RSPN awarded 16 books titled Natural Heritage of Bhutan to student performers as a token of appreciation for their contribution to the festival.
Food stalls with wide variety of delicacies unique to the region that included Hoentoe (a special dumpling of Haa District with turnip leaves stuffing), and the coveted Yak meat were some of the other attractions.
Several tourists that RSPN talked to mentioned that they were staying at the homestays, which are scattered around the three Gewogs (Blocks) of Bjee, Kartsho and Eusu. The homestays are part of the CBST project services reinforced by RSPN. It is a replication of RSPN’s successful CBST program in Phobjikha. The main objective of the project is to present the locals, the real champions of conservation, the room or opportunity to generate additional or supplementary income. Through the project, local guides were also trained.
The festival was organized by the Dzongkhag and funded by Tourism Council of Bhutan. The festival was held at the Dzongkhag’s Sports ground where tents and an elevated stage were prepared.
RSPN awaits the next festival and want to contribute in better ways to make the Summer festival truly rich and worthy experience.