31 August, 2020

When an alternative turns lucrative

Tourism linked to Jadipani’s natural and cultural wealth generates additional revenue streams for its people

Women from the SHG of Chopdiyal village in a resource-mapping workshop
Women from the SHG of Chopdiyal village in a resource-mapping workshop
Women from the SHG of Chopdiyal village in a resource-mapping workshop
Women from the SHG of Chopdiyal village in a resource-mapping workshop

The women of Jadipani, a picturesque region in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, now have a new purpose in life – sustaining themselves and the beauty, environment and ecology of their mountainous district through tourism. They are supported in their ambitious endeavour by the Himmotthan Society, an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts.

Himmotthan has been working in the Jadipani cluster of Tehri Garhwal district for the past 15 years. It has successfully created a strong self-organised community of 700+ women, 70+ SHGs and a self-reliant co-operative / federation. The federation has been engaged in various initiatives that focus on enhancing livelihoods such as the marketing of dairy and processed dairy products and livestock feed / fodder, agriculture and springshed rejuvenation. Based on the inputs from the SHGs over the past two years, the federation also made a foray into tourism. In FY 18-19, out of the total turnover for Him Vikas Federation, tourism revenues stood at about 7 percent. A beginning had been made, and the SHG members were keen to pursue it further.

The tourism vertical of the Tata Trusts started engaging with the federation in the second half of 2018-19, and chalked out a programme to structure the tourism initiative. In the first half of 2019-20, around 20 workshops for SHG members, interns from educational institutions as well as outside participants were organised.

The board of directors of the federation was actively involved in conducting the workshops. The rich natural and cultural wealth of the Jadipani region was captured through discussions, poster-making and story-telling. The location was assessed on access and connectivity, as well as safety and access to healthcare facilities. A few SHGs were shortlisted to be part of the Phase 1 of the programme.

The focal themes that emerged out of the interaction and seemed to be lucrative avenues for tourism were: agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy operations, nature trails, working of self-help groups, water conservation, sanitation and hygiene, waste management, transact walks, engagements with the local school, vegetable and milk marketing, plantation, springshed rejuvenation, local arts and crafts, local food heritage, food processing, cultural traditions, etc. Tourism offerings were designed and tested around these themes.

Based on the response to the pilot offerings, the following target markets emerged as strong options for the cluster - schools in Mussoorie / Dehradun / Delhi, Educational institutes in Dehradun / Delhi, special interest groups around farming / gardening / sustainable living / natural resource management / healthy living / birding / nature, experiential travel / long-stay travelers around rural lifestyle, and study groups from various institutions / organisations.The intervention has resulted in the percentage of revenue from tourism vis-à-vis the total turnover more than doubling in the first half of this year for Him Vikas Self-Reliant Co-op, a Tata Trusts’ incubated women's cooperative . In 2019-20, prestigious schools like Doon School, Woodstock School and Mussoorie International School have sent their students to the cluster for rural immersion programmes. They are enthused to collaborate further in various initiatives of Him Vikas.

Anil Ramola, Manager of Him Vikas, is very happy with the development, especially as around 60-70 percent of the revenue is being shared with the SHGs. Mr Ramola says that the uniqueness of the tourism intervention lies in the fact that it complements and in no way hinders the existing occupation/s of the women — and they want to take full advantage of it.

As the tourism suffers the wrath of the pandemic currently, the Trusts is facilitating the rural communities to explore additional avenues for supplementing their incomes.