Tintin in the Himalayas A grassroots Social Enterprise with Stephan Marchal

The Great Himalayan National Park(GHNP)

The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) protects a relatively pristine Himalayan ecosystem of rare plants and animals. Himalayan black bear, brown bear, leopard, snow leopard and Himalayan Tahr are found here but they are all very elusive. The colourful Monal Pheasant and the Western Tragopan known locally as Jujurana - literally the ‘king of birds’ - represent the birdlife.

The ecosystem consists of dense evergreen forests in the lower reaches, grasslands in higher reaches, leading to barren rock and snow covered mountain tops.

The GHNP is a trekker and hikers paradise with several treks and hikes lasting from a few hours to two weeks.

Conservation threats

Before the creation of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in 1999, the locals living around the park depended on the park for their livelihood. They used the park to graze their animals and collect firewood. Other forest produce like guchi - a rare and expensive mushroom - was sold for cash. Their activities were also destructive to the park. They would set fire to the forest for easier access to mushrooms and to encourage the growth of tender young grass for their grazing animals.

When the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) was created in 1999, the local people were not allowed access to the national park. The locals lost a source of income. Unless an alternative source of income is arranged for them, they will continue to exploit the national park for their livelihood.

Several hydroelectric projects are planned around the GHNP which could flood the valleys and cause environmental destruction.

The success story

Catalyzed and facilitated by Stephan Marchal, the locals living around GHNP organized themselves into a cooperative with the purpose of offering treks and hikes in the park. The cooperative was organized as a Social Enterprise and is not dependent on grants, loans or aid.

The 70+ strong members of the cooperative now offer treks and hikes via their website himalayanecotourism.com It is a self sustaining Social Enterprise which generates a small profit which is invested back in the community via various socially useful projects.

In contrast to other tour operators, the locals are not employed at minimal wages with minimal rights but receive the majority of the revenue from the treks and hikes they offer. They are organized into a cooperative and have been empowered to take their own decisions.

The women have been organized into ‘Self help groups’ and work on processing and packaging local produce such as honey and apricot oil into soaps and other products. They are looking to launch their own brand of organic products for sale to tourists in nearby towns.

The success of Stephan Marchal, Himalayan Ecotourism, the co-operative and the women’s groups has helped almost a hundred families reduce their dependency on the Great Himalayan National Park.

The sketch shows day to day life in the Great Himalayan National Park