Sudipta Dev – Mumbai
Advocating the cause of impact tourism, Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) is bringing about positive development in rural communities in Ladakh through its adventure tourism initiatives. GHE has introduced the Green Himalayan Village project to connect remote Himalayan villages with the outside world through its homestay website. “GHE aims to bring the traditional homestays onto an online platform. This would allow anyone from across geographies to book homestay in a specific village of his interest. We plan to initiate this with five villages as of now. These are the villages we would be electrifying through solar power hence the name Green Himalayan Villages,” said Paras Loomba, founder and expedition leader, GHE. These villages are in Markha valley and Nubra valley of Leh and Sankhoo valley of Kargil.
The villages are – Umlung, Rakuru, Shingo, Lankerchey Brok and Sumda Chenmo. Along with the number of households in the village, the website also gives information about the local attractions, activities (for instance, farming barley and cooking in traditional Ladakhi kitchen), village walks/ treks, facilities and of course things to taste. It also gives information on how the village has benefited (income generation, lives impacted, CO2 elimination). “You won’t be surprised if this turns out be the next Airbnb for village homestays,” stated Loomba, adding that the new portal will help expand the outreach of the homestay experience to a larger audience. “This will be mainly through the existing GHE network and tourism blogs where we intend to promote these homestays. As these homestays provide an experience of traditional village lifestyle that is self-sustaining, we plan to execute educational and leadership treks to these locations,” he informed.
For training villagers on how to operate homestays, GHE is associating with a local youth organisation – Youth Association for Conservation and Development (YAFCAD), which has been for the last eight years setting up homestays and providing training to the locals. “We plan to fund raise a part of the homestay setup cost and have some part contributed by the villagers. There will also be a strong feedback mechanism linked with the portal that would help us keep a quality check on each homestay as well as help the villagers to evolve this model continuously,” said Loomba.
Comprising of 20 participants from seven countries, GHE 2015 will also setup the first Robotics Lab at the Third Pole E-Base, Leh, do solar electrification of Umlung village, conduct basic medical survey of Markha valley villagers through portable mobile health kits, light up Techa Monastery, and inaugurate the first Disney play room at Mahabodhi School, Leh.