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M o u n t a i n S h e p h e r d s

Evolving a New Model of Community-Owned Ecotourism

The Mountain Shepherds Initiative is the commercial spin-off of the
Nanda Devi Campaign based on the equitable tourism principles laid down in the
2001 Nanda Devi Declaration. Its long-term mission is to serve as a new model of
socially conscious and community owned ecotourism operations
M o u n t a i n S h e p h e r d s in the Uttarakhand region and beyond.

For more information on Mountain Shepherds or

the Nanda Devi Campaign, please contact us @ NANDA DEVI
43/2 Pkt 2, Vivek Vihar, GMS Road India’s second highest peak,
Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, 248001, India most revered mountaineering destination,
email: biosphere reserve & UN World Heritage Site.
tel: +91.971 931 6777
The bliss-giving goddess, | daughter of the Himalayas,
patron deity of Uttarakhand.

Home to the trans-Himalayan Bhotiya,

cradle of the Chipko movement,
birthplace of Gaura Devi.
Today, in front of our revered Nanda Devi, and drawing inspiration from
Chipko’s radiant history, we dedicate ourselves to the transformation of our region
into a global centre for peace, prosperity and biodiversity conservation.

Nanda Devi Biodiversity Conservation & Ecotourism Declaration,

14 October 2001 | Lata Village, Uttarakhand
The Mountain Shepherds story begins in the Niti Valley of The staff of Mountain Shepherds are partners and
the Indian High Himalayas where people have traditionally
shareholders in a community-owned company
gained a livelihood as transhumant shepherds, traders, or
farmers. However, with the 1962 India-China border con- geared wholly towards sustainable and culturally
flict and the 1982 closure of the Nanda Devi National Park, appropriate tourism. Almost alone in this regard,
an age-old trading relationship with Tibet ended as did all Mountain Shepherds as a local company hopes to
mountaineering and trekking expeditions to Nanda Devi, restore a sense of dignity to Himalayan tourism and
one of the Himalayas’ highest and most popular peaks. mountaineering, not only for conscientious travel-
Both had a devastating cultural and economic impact, yet lers, but also to set an example in the entire region.
1998: The Nanda Devi communities lay claim an incredible resilience born of the arduous life in the high-
to their traditional land rights. est Himalayas allowed the local people to bounce back.
Thus in the 1970s, communities of the Niti Valley were at the forefront of the famous Chipko movement that saw
village women led by Gaura Devi save their forests. From 1998 to the present, they have persisted in their efforts to
regain access rights to the Nanda Devi National Park. With the creation of Uttarakhand state and its emphasis on the Mountain Shepherds is always innovating new treks
tourism sector, this later movement gave birth to the Nanda Devi Campaign for cultural survival and sustainable live- and ventures for its clients while training staff in
lihoods. Sparked by the urgent need to ensure local control of the tourist trade, the campaign issued the progressive important skills. In 2007, high altitude yoga was
2001 Nanda Devi Biodiversity Conservation and Eco Tourism Declaration to guide its future endeavours. offered for the first time. A world away from the
congestion of Rishikesh, the beautiful and serene
Since then, the campaign has pioneered innovative programmes to raise awareness of the Nanda Devi region and the mountain meadows of upper Garhwal were found
need for equity in the tourism industry. These programmes have embraced everything from artist camps to women’s to offer an unparalleled experience and will now be
festivals on Republic Day, technology training, and participation in regional and international academic workshops.
offered with every itinerary.
Over successive summers, student groups from American and Canadian universities also visited the area as part of
their studies in Mountain Geography and International Development. All the programmes sought to raise the global
profile of the region and diversify the community’s economic strategies. In 2004, these efforts were recognized when
the area was selected as a runner up for Best Ecotourism Destination by Condenast Traveler. A LEARNING ORGANIZATION

With the Nanda Devi Campaign, the Niti Valley has

Introducing Mountain Shepherds become a hub of international academic activity.
A unique combination of a culturally rich context,
In the fall of 2006, the Nanda Devi Campaign launched its trekking opportunities, and a strong community-
economic activities in earnest. After three years of steady directed research protocol has attracted university
progress, a major grant was obtained from the Winterline groups and individual scholars alike. Research topics
Foundation to train local youth in basic mountaineering have embraced everything from conservation policies
skills at the Nerhu Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Ut- to transhumant ethnography to gender studies.
tarkashi, India. These youth in turn would eventually be-
come the major stakeholders in Mountain Shepherds, a
new community-owned and operated tourism company
initiated by the Nanda Devi Campaign.
2006: Graduation Day at NIM. Advanced training in method
Representing the future of their communities, the NIM As a community-owned enterprise governed by the
of instruction and search & rescue are already underway.
training provided a fresh start to many who could not fin- 2001 Nanda Devi Declaration, Mountain Shepherds
ish school nor return to their traditional livelihood. With advanced training, the youth would be enabled to enter into is intimately rooted in the common struggles and
more specialized and therefore higher paying work, and as such allow them to take greater advantage of the burgeon- concerns of the people of Upper Uttarakhand. Its
ing tourist trade that has thus far relegated them to a service role in the very land they knew best. Most importantly, many spin-off benefits include microcredit lending
it would contribute towards strengthening local communities by increasing the chance of Himalayan youth finding to community members, ancillary training such as
gainful employment closer to home rather than in urban centres. Eventually, the recruiting area would also expand English language courses, and raising the esteem and
beyond the Niti and Mana Valleys, to include trainees from all over the upper Uttarakhand Himalayas.
self-confidence of local people.

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