Ladakh Homestays- transforming local mindsets towards snow leopards

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

Ladakh Homestays- transforming local mindsets towards snow leopards

India
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Ladakh Himalayan Homestays offer you a unique opportunity to stay with, and share the culture of Himalayan people in remote villages, while trekking through rugged habitat of the endangered snow leopard
Ladakh Himalayan Homestays seek to:
• Ensure that hosts-
? have developed the unique mountain experience,
? are obtaining a fair return for their services and investment
• Positive interactive cultural experiences for both the host and tourist
• Ensure that homestays contribute to conserving local cultural and natural heritage by ensuring that a percentage of the earnings go towards conservation activities such as garbage management, aforestation and reducing human-wildlife conflict by indirectly compensating livestock depredation.
Create a distinctive, authentic, reliable, tourist accommodation and experience – homestay packages – for visitors in the world’s highest mountain range, through participatory monitoring of standards and conservation linkages by using tools and mechanisms such as feedback forms, wildlife monitoring by local guides.

By opting for Ladakh Homestays, you help local people generate income from tourism activities in their areas. This additional income helps in many ways:
• Offsets livestock loss caused by snow leopards and other predators
• Supports local conservation actions that protect cultural and natural heritage.

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Main Tukcha road

City

Leh-Ladakh

State/Province

Jammu & Kashmir

Postal/Zip Code

194101

Country
Year innovation began

2002

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of benefit to the people of the desitination

Place your video embed code here from YouTube, Google Video and other video sharing websites. How to embed a video from YouTube.

Paste your code here

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Conservation/Preservation organization

Geographic location

Mountain.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Lack of quality assurance

Main insight addressed

Develop community assets

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

Improving rural livelihoods and changing local mindsets towards snow leopards from that of a pest to an invaluable village tourism asset.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

The Himalayan Homestays program fosters conservation-based community managed tourism development in remote settlements, by gradually building local capacity and ownership. It stands out as an ideal example that aims to be sensitive to both host and visitor expectations without compromising the aspirations of host communities, and at the same time seeks to balance these aspects with conservation of the area’s unique cultural and natural heritage.
Himalayan Homestays seek to:
• Ensure that hosts-
have developed the unique mountain experience.
are obtaining a fair return for their services and investment.
• Positive interactive cultural experiences for both the host and visitor.
• Ensure that Homestays contribute to conserving local cultural and natural heritage by ensuring that a percentage of the earnings go towards conservation activities such as garbage management, aforestation and reducing human-wildlife conflict by indirectly compensating livestock depredation.
• Create a distinctive, authentic, reliable, tourist accommodation and experience – homestay packages – for visitors in the world’s highest mountain range, through participatory monitoring of standards and conservation linkages by using tools and mechanisms such as feedback forms, wildlife monitoring by local guides, community conservation funds & related actions, as well as participatory evaluation by visitors, private tour operators, NGO’s and the local community.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

To create a viable community-owned venture the process involved:
1. Community mobilization:
• Helped locals to identify & develop eco-friendly alternative livelihoods requiring minimal investment.

2. Assessment of client demand & interest:
• A market survey was conducted on over 500 visitors trekking through Hemis.
• Six out of ten visitors voted for Homestays rather than tented accommodation and guesthouses. The interest in local food and dry compost toilets was high.

3. Focus on Conservation Linkages:
A partnership between the community, private entrepreneurs and SLC-IT ensured a strong link between business & conservation. The programme focused on poorer families from prime snow leopard habitats in Hemis National Park, Sham, Zanskar & Spiti and demonstrated the economic benefits of wildlife conservation.

4. Community-wide benefit sharing:
• Rotation systems were set up to enable participation of all interested households. For those who couldn’t cater for visitors in their homes, services like guiding, solar showers & parachute cafes were developed.

5. Conservation Funds:
A system was set up whereby each household would contribute 10% of their earnings into a village conservation fund. Over the years, villagers have used this corpus for waste management, tree plantation, and restoration of cultural features like stupas and for creating grazing reserves for wildlife.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

The success of Ladakh Homestays has been due to the active involvement of the local communities throughout the life of the project including strong partnerships between the engaging NGO, Rural Communities and Private Entrepreneurs. This has built a sense of ownership amongst the key partners and has made the project sustainable.

Sharing of Good Practices with other NGOs and planners would be one of the ways for spreading the innovation. Including Training of Trainers in the principles of the Ladakh Homestay Project as well as the participatory approaches of Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action (APPA) would greatly help enhance capacity building.

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

The project has built a sense of pride amongst local people in their culture and helped save the snow leopard.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

The program has been successful in several ways:
(i) Increased Economic Benefits to Rural Communities:
• Homestay numbers increased from 8 to 100 + in 15 sites
• Revenue per household ranges from $ 150 to $ 300+ (average annual income $ 400)

(ii) Minimized Negative Cultural Impacts of Tourism:
• Participation by villagers, operators, NGOs has resulted in culturally sensitive Homestays
• Codes of conduct address issues of privacy and appropriate behaviour (by all parties)

(iii) Reduced Environmental Impacts of Tourism & Preserved Natural Heritage:
• Reduced fuel wood consumption via solar cookers & boiling of drinking water
• 10-15% of profits go to a Conservation Fund that supports activities like tree plantation, garbage management, creation of a grazing reserve for the threatened Tibetan Argali and a livestock insurance program

(iv) Reduced Retributive Killings of Predators:
• The income helps offset losses from livestock depredation & SLC-IT takes a commitment from all providers to not harm wildlife, especially snow leopards

The program’s success is largely related to regular monitoring:
• Feedback forms and periodic visits have increased Homestays’ ratings from 50% showing satisfaction initially to over 80% rating it as excellent by 2006.
• A Photo Voice evaluation method showed that most women providers (who comprise the majority) felt the income had significantly changed their lives – most use it to send their children to better schools.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Ladakh Homestays provides a combination of experiences for the visitor that include learning about Ladakhi culture, interacting with the hosts and participation in household activities, nature treks with local guides, eating traditional cuisine, and enjoying Ladakhi hospitality that together provides an authentic Himalayan experience they have been thirsting for. Although it is difficult to see the snow leopard, the visitor experience is built around the habitat in which the cats live and the people with whom they share the land.

Excellent!! This was my true Himalayan and Ladakhi Experience-Aron Hejdstron/ Swedish

Article in The Guardian (UK); “the Ladakh Homestays is a real deal and not just another eco-wash”.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

The project is running in 15 villages located in or close to prime snow leopard habitats. It provides direct benefits by supplementing household incomes in over 100 households and indirectly benefits over 80 plus households through the hiring of nature guides, solar baths, cooperatively run parachute cafes and sale of local handicrafts.
• The local residents are involved in the monitoring of standards of Homestays in their villages.
• They ensure smooth rotation of business to ensure benefit sharing amongst all families.
• Villagers have made a Visitor Codes of Conduct to educate visitors about their culture and environment.
• They decide how the village conservation fund is used for conservation of their natural resources.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

During the initial workshops with villagers the program was defined in the
following way:
“A traditional village based Ladakhi Homestay would share their traditional way of life
and values with visitors, provide traditional food, in an eco-friendly environment that
requires little initial investment.”
This definition set clear guidelines for the management and operations of Homestays that would promote cultural values and be based on environment friendly-practices such as use of Solar lighting, Parabolic heaters to boil water for cooking and stressed the use of Dry compose toilets that did not waste or pollute water and produced useful manure for the fields.

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

It took us 5 years to make the program both financially and organizationally sustainable.
The success of the initiative has been the involvement of private entrepreneurs in the
whole process and the strong partnerships between them, local communities and the
facilitating NGO. Without a viable business for communities the conservation actions
resulting from the project would not have been possible. Today the program stands as a viable and growing business for the rural communities and is in addition helping sustain some of the environmental conservation activities of Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The Initiative is currently running on its own but was initially financed by The Mountain Institute and was later supported by UNESCO Paris under the program “Ecotourism in the Mountains of Central and South Asia”. The program got an average support of $10,000 annually for a period of 5 years.
The Grant supported eight months salary of two staff members, including consultancy for Trainers for Homestay Services Providers and Nature Guiding. It also supported the overall planning and management of Homestays in 15+ villages located in two regions of Ladakh, one in Zanskar and one in Spiti.
The program has been generating an average income of $300+ in two regions of Ladakh (running for 5 years) and $150 in the new sites of Zanskar and Spiti. With over 700 visitations in 100 plus families generating approximately $10,2500 from Homestays alone and additional $2000 from support services such as Nature Guiding, Handicrafts, Eco Cafes and Pony Services for visitors.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Until now, we have conducted training on the Community Based Tourism and its application for members of organizations like WWF-Leh, Ladakh Development Organization, MUSE-Spiti (Himachal Pradesh State) including other organizations from the State of Uttaranchal to replicate the model in their respective regions. We plan to conduct more of such trainings and work in partnerships with both NGOs and private entrepreneurs for expansion of the project to other areas. Currently we are focusing on the remote region of Lungnak valley in Zanskar to expand and replicate this model.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Barriers and Challenges faced are:
• Maintaining consistency in standards amongst Homestays scattered across remote villages and hamlets in 15+ villages.
• Getting enough visitors to travel to far and distant locations such as Zanskar.
• Competition by mimicking agencies that confuse visitors with a similar product but without applying the principles of Ecotourism. And competition from other sources of accommodation like guest houses and tented accommodation that do not benefit locals.
• Finding reliable and committed partners for replication.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

It was during 1999 while working with the International Snow leopard Trust that we conducted a livestock depredation survey to understand the root cause of conflicts between herding communities and snow leopards. The results showed that villagers of the proposed Hemis National Park lost 12.4% of their livestock to predators, resulting in an average annual loss of US$23,250. Retributive killings of snow leopards were largely fuelled by multiple killings of livestock within corrals.
Thus, curtailing these multiple killings by snow leopards within corrals became my main agenda and we formed the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust. Our Team began by encouraging locals to participate in planning and to find solutions, thus drawing on traditional knowledge regarding livestock movements, depredation hotspots and finding cost effective solutions for predator proofing corrals. In the years that followed, predator proofing measures resulted in reduction of livestock losses within corrals. However, herders continued to suffer losses when livestock were free ranging, and hence snow leopards continued to be seen as a pest. It thus became imperative to find real incentives for conservation that would transform local mindsets towards this elusive and endangered cat.

A series of brainstorming sessions with villagers led to tourism as a viable option for alternative livelihoods. Using a highly participatory method of APPA, that works on appreciative enquiry of building on strengths, villagers decided on Homestays as their venture that would help by “providing a service that would maintain and share a traditional way of life and its values, provide traditional food, be based on eco-friendly concepts and require small amounts of investment for renovation.”
From 17 visitors hosted by four families in Rumbak in the initial year, the figures rose to 700 visitors hosted by over 100 families spread across 20 villages by the year 2007. All the villages chosen for the Homestay programme are located in or close to prime snow leopard habitats of the Hemis National Park, Sham, Zanskar and Spiti. With an annual average earning of $500 per family, it provided incentives for people to create livestock-free grazing reserves for wild prey such as blue sheep and the threatened Tibetan Argali.
In a span of six years, Himalayan Homestays have transformed attitudes towards the snow leopard from that of a pest to an invaluable tourism asset worth more alive than dead.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Rinchen Wangchuk is the Program Director and Co-Founder of SLC- India Trust. He works closely with livestock herding communities to predator-proof nighttime corrals. He trains local women and young men, in ways of enhancing their income generation skills in activities closely linked with the conservation of snow leopards.

Rinchen is responsible for the launch of the Ladakh Himalayan Homestay program. A mountaineer turned conservationists he has also served as a naturalist and assistant on several documentaries filmed in Hemis National Park, including the widely acclaimed “Silent Roar: Searching for the Snow Leopard.”

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

The Ladakh Himalayan Homestays offer you a unique opportunity to stay with, and share the culture of Himalayan people in remote villages, while trekking through rugged habitat of the endangered snow leopard
Ladakh Himalayan Homestays seek to:
• Ensure that hosts-
? have developed the unique mountain experience,
? are obtaining a fair return for their services and investment
• Positive interactive cultural experiences for both the host and tourist
• Ensure that homestays contribute to conserving local cultural and natural heritage by ensuring that a percentage of the earnings go towards conservation activities such as garbage management, aforestation and reducing human-wildlife conflict by indirectly compensating livestock depredation.
Create a distinctive, authentic, reliable, tourist accommodation and experience – homestay packages – for visitors in the world’s highest mountain range, through participatory monitoring of standards and conservation linkages by using tools and mechanisms such as feedback forms, wildlife monitoring by local guides.

By opting for Ladakh Homestays, you help local people generate income from tourism activities in their areas. This additional income helps in many ways:
• Offsets livestock loss caused by snow leopards and other predators
• Supports local conservation actions that protect cultural and natural heritage.

File attachments: