Taming The Mountain

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Mountain Shepherds is using adventure tourism to bolster local incomes and create awareness about the difficulties faced by the Bhotiya people.

Greeting in TolmaTaneesha Kulshresthra
Business Outlook, September 4, 2010

  • Mission To turn villagers into guides and hospitality providers for tourists, so they get a fair share of profits from tourism.
  • Benefits Villagers have alternative sources of income, while tourists benefit from localised knowledge and handmade products.

The tiny village of Tolma, home to 17 families belonging to the Bhotiya community, lies 8,000 feet above sea level in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR). The only way to reach it is by trudging 3 km up a rocky, slippery pagdandi (walking path) from the nearest motorable road. Tolma is one of the villages that Mountain Shepherds, an adventure tourism company run by members of the Bhotiya tribe, showcases on its tourist expeditions in the Nanda Devi area. As we struggle up the steep incline, making our way through hundreds of pine and devdar trees, one of the villagers, a woman named Bina, insists on adding our backpacks to her burden. We protest, but Sunil Kainthola, co-founder of Mountain Shepherds and our guide on the trek, overrules us. “You are a guest of the village and she will be happy to carry your bag for you,” he declares.

This hospitable nature and the breathtaking scenery have made many a tourist flock to the area. Mountain Shepherds’ objective is to promote adventure tourism in the Himalayas and, consequently, improve the lot of the region’s people. The tourism has given the Bhotiyas, who constitute 17 of the 19 communities in the Indo-Tibetan ethnic group, a lucrative new source of income. [read more]

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