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Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust
The snow leopard is a red list globally endangered species with between 200 and 600 individuals thought to occur in the higher reaches of the Himalayas encompassing the northern areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The judges were impressed by its Himalayan Homestay initiative which creates livelihoods for local people, offsetting and compensating livestock losses, increasing the stake of local people in conserving wildlife through wildlife tourism, reduce human wildlife conflict and promoting coexistence, reversing a centuries old tradition of hunting snow leopards and wolves.
Since 2002 over 130 families have been trained to offer 165 homestays in 40 villages across Ladakh. There are eco-cafes in 9 villages, selling local food products, and handicraft programs in 32 villages, in which rural women are trained in making soft toy-animals, which the homestay visitors take home as souvenirs. The Trust also promotes ‘voluntourism’, where homestay operators host volunteers working on Trust conservation programs in the villages. 10% of all homestay income goes into village conservation funds used by villagers for tree planting, garbage cleaning and maintenance of their cultural heritage such as mani walls, chortens and sacred juniper stands. Ulley and surrounding villages voluntarily freed 16 sq miles from livestock grazing for the betterment of traditional pastureland for the endangered Ladakh urial and Asiatic ibex. The Trust has sought to maintain traditional Ladakhi values, particularly by serving Ladakhi food to guests and by housing guests in existing traditional rooms of Ladakhi houses rather than constructing new dwellings, contributing to maintaining a living culture. The model is being considered for replication in five countries.
IRTA 2019 'One to Watch', Best Earth Friendly
The Hearth Hostel is a backpacker community hostel; guests stay with other travellers in a remote rural area in a place offering a wide range of facilities and activities for travellers seeking a rural setting. Established in June 2018 it is too soon to be awarded.
IRTA 2020 Silver Winner, Best for Social Impact
Ice Stupas store the winter water in the form of an artificial glacier and this water becomes available for the village in Spring to be used in agriculture. The main benefit derived from Ice Stupa tourism is the improvement in water availability to villages in Spring. Thirteen villages made an Ice Stupa for the first time in 2019, with an average of 2-3 million litres water made available from each Ice Stupa. Himalayan Farmstays has been providing grants to upgrade home facilities & washrooms and conducting training to upskill the hosts in hospitality & cooking. Himalayan Farmstays are now active in five villages and working with 40 farm stays and planning a circuit to create multi0day itineraries creating employment opportunities for local guides & trek leaders in Ladakh.