When Norlha was established on the Tibetan Plateau in 2007, the trend for business was novelty. Young educated Tibetans yearned to become writers or poets, and business, often associated with shady practices and personal enrichment, was viewed as possibly profitable but unethical in nature. Norlha preached conscious business, rural employment, fair wages, a commitment to craftsmanship and quality, concepts that became absorbed only after several years of commitment and proof that we practiced what we preached. When we began, we hoped that our little company would inspire others and that one day, there would be Tibetan grassroots companies all over the Plateau, making everything from yak milk to carpentry. Well, it is happening!
This year, in the last week of August, Jampa Dondrup, one of Norlha’s managers, attended the ‘ The 6th Annual Meeting of Tibetan Cooperatives and Social Entrepreneurial Projects for the Five Tibetan Provinces’, this year hosted by Tsedup, in Machu. The movement was spearheaded by Ven. Jigme Gyaltsen, Founder and Director of the Ragya School for Nomads, one of the earliest social entrepreneurs on the Plateau, with a cheese factory that produces Italian cheeses. The goal of these meetings is to learn and exchange on ways and ideas to implement social entrepreneurship, increase self-reliance and consciousness of the environment, provide new means of livelihood to a younger generation of Tibetans and improve the local economy. Legal experts had been invited to advise the entrepreneurs on how to apply for government grants and give tips on how to manage the markets. .
About 300 different companies and cooperatives attended, during which speakers presented their projects. Jampa, who represented Norden Camp made a presentation. When the meeting concluded on the 27th, the participants split into two groups to visit different companies in the area and took a tour of Norden Camp and the Norchu Cheese factory situated at the base of the Lungta cooperative. There were about 100 people, led by Ven Jimgme Gyaltsen and Khaser Lama, who had hosted the meeting the previous year in his native Drago Dzong. We met up at the cheese factory where they arrived in a convoy of numbered cars, parked on the small road leading to the plant. The mood was joyful, open and supportive. They came from all over Tibet, Lhasa, and many areas of Kham and Amdo. Some were just beginning, others, well established, and the positive ambiance of seeing how others had succeeded gave hope and opened doors. I think it is only the beginning….