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Gushaini, Teh. Banjar, Dist. Kullu, HP

The work of Himalayan Ecotourism, a social enterprise in the Himalayas

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We work for our mission


At Himalayan Ecotourism we are driven by our mission to “bring Himalayan rural communities on a sustainable development path, with conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems as a means to meet economic and social well-being”.

We believe that conservation is primarily the matter of the local communities. Hence, we consider empowerment and awareness of the locals of utmost importance. Working as a social enterprise allows us to bring the locals as the main stakeholders of their own development, and to sustain our effort towards conservation.

Our ecotourism activities are something we do in order to sustain ourselves economically and financially and to network with the global community about our cause.
Our slogan is “creating joy and sustainability in the Himalayas” which perfectly captures what we aim to do.




Working with the local community


We believe that to achieve sustainable development in remote rural areas the local community needs to be socially and economically empowered. That's why we have encouraged the people of the ecozone of the GHNP engaged in tourism activities to come together to establish their own society : "The GHNP Community-Based Ecotourism Cooperative".

We, the cooperative members and a couple of other professionals/supporters work together as Himalayan Ecotourism for organizing your treks and travels.

We have set the rules so that everyone has a larger benefit being a member of the cooperative rather than working as an individual. Each member has at least one share in the company. It means that your trekking staff do not work as simple daily-based wage earners but as shareholders of the company.
Himalayan Ecotourism is the company of your staff ... That's why they care so much about you, their customers, and very soon their friends.
Therefore, our cooperative model is not only good for the locals, it is very good for your travel experience as well.

The cooperative has become the instrument of the locals to raise their voice, to claim for their rights and to envision a growing path.
We have greatly enhanced the social, economic and even politic empowerment of the local community.
Cooperative members

Cooperative members

Opening a new trekking route outside the GHNP to avoid congestion in the Park.



Photos of our work with the cooperative society

Meeting of the cooperative

Meeting

Cooperative meeting in our Gushaini office in the ecozone of the GHNP, Tirthan valley.

Our newsletter to the cooperative

Our newsletter

All members of the cooperative (65) receive our newsletter by post. News and encouragement for everyone !

proud to be locals

Proud to be locals

The economic and political forces against the cooperative have been huge. But we did it !




Our “Stop Forest Fires” initiative


Igniting fires in the forests is a common practice in the Himalayas. The reasons are a wrong economic calculation. And the consequences are immensely dreadful.

Most of the forest lands are burned every year leaving us with very little chance of preserving the Himalayas as a shelter for invaluable biodiversity and as a source of oxygen, water and other vital resources in a near future.

Hence, we have set our “Stop Forest Fires” project as a priority.
After having studied the issue for about 4 years we found that the best way to go about it was :

 Raising awareness of the local villagers about the consequences of forest fires,

 Educating the children about the need of protecting the environment,

 Creating a social movement against intentional forest fires, named "I am a defender", and

 Offering new income generating activities as a substitute for the forest fires short term economic benefits .
Cooperative members

Village meeting

To talk about the adverse impacts of forest fires. Raising awareness and creating social movements require to develop proper communication tools and skills.



Photos of our work for "Stop Forest Fires"

To wake Buddhi

Our documentary

We made a documentary in Hindi to raise awareness of the local about the importance of conservation.

Road signs against forest fires

Road signs

About the adverse effects of intentional forest fires in the Himalayas. A much appreciated steps.

proud to be locals

Facebook page

We report all major forest fires on this Facebook page to mobilize the local community.

Educating children

Educating children

Raising awareness of school kids about the consequences of forest fires, and giving them pamphlets.

I am a defender of Himalayan forests

I am a defender

Fighting forest fires where it hurts, and creating a social movement against the intentional fires.

Placing posters

Placing posters

Our interns roaming the Tirthan valley for placing Stop Forest Fires posters.




Women empowerment


Unfortunately, we have to report that the situation of women in our part of the Himalayas is quite poor. From the time of their birth, local girls are the victims of blatant discrimination and have a much lower social status.
That gave us an additional reason to work for women empowerment as we believe that women are the key the conservation and sustainable development.

Working for women empowerment where women have such a situation is not an easy task. But it is a crucial effort as many unsustainable practices and development are due to the male- and caste-dominated system. One must face the cultural barriers to bring a change in that respect. And that is quite challenging and time taking, especially in an area where the women status as well as the caste system are, still today, seen as unchangeable cultural traits.

We try to show the local families a way where women can have a role at a higher level than washing plates and other household duties. Bringing women together for saving money and discussing their problems, and then training them to making of value-added products appeared to us as to be the first step.
We wish to see them earning their own money, in an organized and collective way, so that they may gradually grab more power and responsibilities in the local system.
Ideally this could create a great synergy with our cooperative society. As we said, it is virtually a never-ending task. We will keep on working on this and update you!
Cooperative members

Coming together

Being together helps in gaining confidence. Problems are being discussed as well as the new opportunities we try to create.



Photos of our work for women empowerment

Training for jam making

Jam making

We have offered many trainings for value-addition of local products.

Training for felted wool

Felting wool

Wool is abundant in the ecozone of the GHNP. We've trained selected women for making of felt.

proud to be locals

Bag in felt

The women were proudly showing one of the first finished products they made.

Handmade soaps

Handmade soaps

A funny activity that involve creativity. Our soaps are just lovely !

I am a defender of Himalayan forests

Seed bank

We encourage the local women to organize their own seed bank to avoid dependence on GMO seeds from market.

Women staff on trek

Women staff

For women trekkers we propose to have women staff in the team. And that's just great !




Developing green technologies


In these times of high-tech and emerging artificial intelligence, millions of people are still using wood for their energy need without any technologies that ensure efficiency and safety.

In this part of the Himalayas, most of the people cook, warm their houses and heat water with the help of ridiculously simple wood stoves which are obviously highly inefficient, polluting and emitting toxic smoke.

After 3 years of R&D, Himalayan Ecotourism has developed three models of clean and efficient wood stoves and one model of solar cooker, very appropriate for the need of the local community. We have given our project the name of Symbioz.

Presently our most promising stove is in the hands of some professors et IIT Mandi for the last stage of the research : to make the stove more user-friendly and easier to manufacture.
Cooperative members

3 models of advanced stove

3 models of clean stoves and 1 model of solar cooker have been developed for the local villagers.



Photos of our work for green technologies

Training for jam making

Village demo

We have demonstrated our "Bashleo" stove in many villages of the ecozone of the GHNP.

Training for felted wool

At IIT Mandi

The "Rohtang" stove has been handed over to a team of researchers at IIT Mandi for further development.

proud to be locals

Women team

Our green technologies are being promoted in the villages by women only.




Other efforts of Himalayan Ecotourism

Collecting trash

Collecting trash

Occasionally we clean the Tirthan riverbanks from all waste thrown away by locals and tourists.

Training for felted wool

Organic farming

We introduce to the villagers innovative practices of organic farming.

proud to be locals

Homestay

We advise the locals who want to set up their own homestay.



Some of our work in video

Video about the work of Himalayan Ecotourism

Our work around the GHNP

Stephan, co-founder of Himalayan Ecotourism, shows some of the work undertaken by Himalayan Ecotourism.

Our documentary to create a community movement against forest fires

To wake, Buddhi

Our documentary to create a community movement against forest fires

Fighting forest fires around the Great Himalayan National Park - Tirthan valley

Awareness raising

An important step for fighting forest fires in the Himalayas.

Fighting forest fires around the Great Himalayan National Park - Tirthan valley

Our work in summer 2018

Fighting forest fires by raising awareness of the local people.

Developing clean stoves for the people around the Great Himalayan National Park - Tirthan valley

Our clean stove

We demo our Rohtang stove at our office in Banjar.

Developing clean stoves for the people around the Great Himalayan National Park - Tirthan valley

Village demo

Demonstration of a stove prototype in the village Khulti.



Our achievements

2013

The onset of a community movement

  With the support of the "Friends of the GHNP", Himalayan Ecotourism starts interacting with the local men engaged in tourism activities. The core team of the GHNP Community-Based Ecotourism Cooperative is formed. We decide to gather a maximum of local guide, cook and other trekking assistants before registering the Cooperative society.
  Himalayan Ecotourism plans to work with the women folk in the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park. Most of the villages of the Tirthan valley are reached by our team to brainstorm with the women and understand better their point of view, their problems and their expectations.

2014

Everything comes into place

  65 villagers from the ecozone have joined the movement. The Society is regitered in Kullu under the Cooperative Act as "The GHNP Community-Based Ecotourism Cooperative". With the support of the cooperative the GHNP is nominated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. We organize a trek to Rolla for the two founders of the "Friends of the GHNP", Sanjeeva Pandey and Payson Stevens to celebrate the nomination.
  We take dozens of groups on trek in or around the GHNP. They are all very happy with our services. It is the beginning of the successful story of our social enterprise "Himalayan Ecotourism".
  Himalayan Ecotourism welcomes 14 interns and volunteers to work on capacity building of the cooperative members and to mobilize & train women for launching their own micro-enterprise.
  Two women Self-Help Groups are formed in the village Pekhri. They are trained to make felted wool, hand-made soaps and fruit jams.
  We decide to address the issues related to energy in the ecozone of the GHNP. We mobilize funds and researchers to start the development of green technologies.

2015

Resistance and development

  Sadly we had to acknowledge that some of the local powerful people (economically and/or politically) do not wish to see the villagers, the mass, to get aware, mobilized and empowered. The cooperative is being first ignored by them and then attacked in very unethical ways. But the sense of unity that has emerged within the Coop has brought them enough confidence to stand against these intimidations. They have resisted and came up with greater awareness of their democratic rights. That's real empowerment !
  Himalayan Ecotourism welcomes 18 interns and volunteers to work on reinforcing the business structure of the cooperative, to further mobilize and train women, and to participate in the development of an advanced wood stove.
  Training of selected guides to winter treks.
  Mobilization of the women in the villages Pekhri, Kulthi, Tinder and Bandel in the ecozone of the GHNP. They are assisted in forming their women Self-Help Groups.
  Some members of the cooperative who learned felt making in 2014 have organized training for the women. The know-how is shared within the community. A very good omen for our social movement.
  Some of the women are engaged in production of apricot oil, jams, soaps and body balm. They launched their own venture called "Himalayan Eco-Creations". The products are sold to the visiting tourists.
  Prototyping of the wood stove that gradually turns into a clean multi-fuel and multi-utility stove.
  Himalayan Ecotourism has organized several tours in Lahaul & Spiti and Ladakh. A great experience for the cooperative members and our guests. College groups are taken on trek.

2016

Maturity of our projects

  The cooperative has taken up the next challenge : to establish itself as the main genuine ecotourism operator in the area.
  Symbioz is established as the daughter organization of Himalayan Ecotourism for designing, producing and selling of green technologies in the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park.
  We have taken several initiatives to raise awareness of the people in the entire Kullu valley about the adverse impacts of forest fires.
  We have open our main office in Banjar to be closer to more local people. The front part of our premises have been arranged in a café. The café business in entirely in the hands of women. The café is named "Life Lovers" and it is frequented by the locals so that they can know about our work and can get involved.

2017

We are Himalayan Ecotourism

  Himalayan Ecotourism is recognized as a unique concept and initiative in the Himalayas. We are a 4.9 out of 5 stars trek & tour operator. We have the heartly encouragment from leading figures from the non-profit sector, forest department and many other like-minded personalities/organizations.
  We have upgraded our trekking plans to "Everest" and "K2" thanks to the a second import of excellent camping equipment. We are unbeatable on the comfort and hospitability offered during our treks.
  We are initiating a huge local community movement to fight against intentional forest fires around the Great Himalayan National Park.
  More women are joining our women empowerment program at the Life Lovers café. We are making hand-made soaps, body cream and balm, fruit jams & pickles. All natural, made locally by women with local ingredients. This is available for the tourists visiting us.





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