The work of Himalayan Ecotourism, a social enterprise in the HimalayasEnquire
We work for our mission
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.
Since the COVID-19 broke out, we have refocused our activities towards reforestation in the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park.
Working with the local community
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.
Photos of our work with the cooperative society
All members of the cooperative (65) receive our newsletter by post. News and encouragement for everyone !
Proud to be locals
The economic and political forces against the cooperative have been huge. But we did it !
The first plantation happenned in the month of January 2020.
Following the breakout of the COVID-19, we scaled up our reforestation program in order to provide alternate source of income to the cooperative members.
Therefore, we could extent our objectives is to a substantial regeneration of the forest ecosystems, especially on the right bank of the Tirthan river which has become barren due to forest fires and other unsustainable uses of the forest lands.
Mitigation of the impacts of climate change, restoration of the habitats for wildlife and economic benefits for the local villagers have become the main goals.
We organize two plantations every year, one in the winter and one during the monsoon with an initial target of restoring the forest on 2 square kilometers of barren land. A nursery is being set up to provide the required saplings. Different varieties of indigenuous tree species are being planted, from Deodar (Himalayan Cedar) to Horse Chestnuts or other broadleaf trees like the Ban oak.
The program is funded by people and organizations who voluntarily want to offset their carbon emissions. You can also become a zero carbon citizen :
OFFSET YOUR CARBON EMISSIONS.
Watch this video to have a quick understanding of what we do for you, and how will you not only offset your carbon emissions but also contribute to a real sustainable development in the Himalayas. be with us !
Planting trees in the Tirthan valley
A beautiful initiative by our cooperative members, all locals from the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park.
CLICK HERE TO OFFSET YOUR CARBON EMISSIONS AND SUPPORT OUR REFORESTATION PROGRAM.
Photos of our tree plantation program
Our “Stop Forest Fires” initiative
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 .
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"
We made a documentary in Hindi to raise awareness of the local about the importance of conservation.
About the adverse effects of intentional forest fires in the Himalayas. A much appreciated steps.
We report all major forest fires on this Facebook page to mobilize the local community.
Raising awareness of school kids about the consequences of forest fires, and giving them pamphlets.
I am a defender
Fighting forest fires where it hurts, and creating a social movement against the intentional fires.
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!
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
Wool is abundant in the ecozone of the GHNP. We've trained selected women for making of felt.
We encourage the local women to organize their own seed bank to avoid dependence on GMO seeds from market.
Developing green technologies
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 smokes.
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.
Students of engineering can apply for intership to help in the ultimate development of the stoves.
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
At IIT Mandi
The "Rohtang" stove has been handed over to a team of researchers at IIT Mandi for further development.
Other efforts of Himalayan Ecotourism
Occasionally we clean the Tirthan riverbanks from all waste thrown away by locals and tourists.
Some of our work in video
Our work around the GHNP
Stephan, co-founder of Himalayan Ecotourism, shows some of the work undertaken by Himalayan Ecotourism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Going to the next step
The ultimate purpose of our social enterprise is to create a replicable model of tourism business that promotes conservation and empowerment of the local community. And we are on the right track.
With a more regular volume of business our cooperative members feel more confident. After many years of struggle to be recognized by the local elite, the cooperative stands now at the national level of recognition being shortlisted for the Outlook Traveller "Indian Responsible Tourism Award" 2019.
We have been very active for reducing the number of intentional forest fires in the Tirthan valley. Our efforts seem to bear fruit as not a single forest fires was reported between the monsoon and the end of the year. That is well above our expectations !
Local women are employed as trekking staff for leading women trekkers. Considering the local culture this is a great achievement !
In 2018 we also started taking elderly and physically challenged persons into the wild. It is so nice to be in the wilderness with people who thought they won't be able to do it !
So far no women empowerment efforts could be sustained on the long run ! This has been quite discouraging. But we didn't give up the fight and a couple of women have been trained for making value-added local products. A complete workshop has been set up, and we plan to start the sales in 2019.
And the most important, our cooperative members have taken several initiatives for regeneration of their ecosystems and for involving the local women in new income generating activities. This is a good sign that our model starts working and will evolve based on the initiative of the locals.
2019 started with Himalayan Ecotourism being the Gold winner of the Best Adventure operator category and the Overall winner of the Indian Responsible Tourism Award !
The awards were received by Keshav and Sanju, President and Treasurer of the Cooperative society and by Stephan, director of Himalayan Ecotourism. This has created an immense joy among all the cooperative members and among all the supporters of HET. The raise of the confidence among our local members was so great that nothing seems to challenge our social movement anymore. This is an outstanding achievement !
The cooperative members were very satisfied with the volume of business that could be driven to them. Beside the social empowerment, the economic empowerment also happened.
Later during the year we were granted an international award for Sustainable Tourism by the Skal International organization ! Again we were the Overall Winner, but this time at an international level.
With these awards in hands and with a good financial year, our cooperative members decided to launch a tree plantation program in the Tirthan valley, ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park. Eventually, our efforts to empower the local community turned into conservation efforts by the locals !
We are very glad that no major forest fires were reported in the Tirthan valley in 2019 ! Only a non-intentional fire happened near Gushaini during Diwali festival due to crackers. This sudden absence of forest fires is certainly a consequence of our awareness campaigns in the area.
Eventually four women trained to making of natural cosmetics are regularly engaged in a small scale production. The products are sold to the local tourists. We hope to scale up the production and the sales in 2020.
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Recognition of Himalayan Ecotourism
Himalayan Ecotourism is the winner of the To Do award 2022 in the field of "Socially Responsible Tourism".
We are also the Overall Winner of the Indian Responsible Tourism Award 2019 and the Gold winner in the Best Adventure Operator category.
We have been declared winner of the Sustainable Tourism Award 2019 by Skal International and Biosphere.
Our cooperative-based model of social enterprise and our efforts to conserve the Himalayas are the main reasons for winning these awards.
Thank you to all our cooperative members, our customers, our friends and well-wishers !