The training of local youth to participate in the local economy is integral to any community-based development project. Not only are youth the future of their communities, but also the most willing and able to take advantage of new opportunities made available by new skills.
To this effect, Mountain Shepherds fundraised and sought and obtained a grant from the Winterline Foundation to send youth from the Nanda Devi communities of the Indian Himalayas to the nearby Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, India. Training took place in August and September of 2006, ahead of the inaugural Nanda Devi Women’s Trek.
By reequiping their traditional knowledge with modern techniques, the youth will be able to enter into more specialized and thus higher paying work. This would enable them to take greater advantage of the burgeoning tourist trade that has thus far relegated them to a supporting service role in the very land they know best. The training would also impart leadership skills while building the self-confidence of Himalayan youth. Most importantly, it would contribute towards strengthening local communities by increasing the chance of Himalayan youth finding gainful employment closer to home rather than in the urban centres.
In total, forty youth were eventually selected by their gram sabhas to serve as the first batch of Mountain Shepherds trainees. While not all and perhaps only a few would eventually work with Mountain Shepherds directly, the skills gained from the month long course can be transfered to any number of skilled work in the mountains.