Training Offers Experiential look into Innovative Livelihoods

Participants enjoying the weather nearby Bhujung (Deependra Tandukar/ICIMOD) 

An arc of rainbow, light drizzle, heavy showers, lush vegetation, clean streams, waterfalls, shining mountain ranges, misty mornings, leeches, and more welcomed the participants of the Regional training of trainers (TOT) workshop on innovative livelihoods held in the Annapurna Conservation Area landscape in Nepal 18 to 25 September 2016. The mountain roads and muddy terrain from Besisaher to Ghalegaun and hike toward Bhujung village through stunning landscapes added an element of adventure to the learning experience and illustrated just how remote, fragile, and pristine mountain landscapes are. The training offered practical experiences illustrating value chain concepts, ecotourism, enterprises development, integrated land water management and protected area governance.  

The commute from Kathmandu to Besisahar, then to Ghalegaun, Bhujung, and Bandipur provided ample time for participants to understand eight A’s of ecotourism value chain — assets, amenities, activities, accessibilities, abilities, actors, acts and affinities. The jeep drive through slippery and narrow mountain roads illustrated how development infrastructure is an essential component of innovative livelihoods and how support from the government can enhance the facility and experience for the visitors. 

For the participants, the homestays at Ghalegaun exemplified the strong role of community-based institutions and the importance of multistakeholder partnerships. Bhujung’s natural and cultural landscape and Bandipur’s hertiage tourism illustrated how global and regional partnerships are possible for sustainable tourism development. 

Participatory exercise for finding ‘Transboundary Connect’ (Deependra Tandukar/ICIMOD)

While TOT provided practical understanding of ecotourism value chains and enterprise development, it also used several participatory tools, games and exercises, and reflection sessions to enhance communication among the participants through interaction, observation and questioning, it also offered a regional platform for country participants to share their perspectives, and reflect on the relevance. Country-specific action plans and mapping of potential for regional ecotourism for Hi-LIFE were other results achieved through the training.

The Annapurna Conservation Area provided an ideal backdrop for understanding community-based tourism, homestay development, community-based enterprise development, cultural conservation, and community-led biodiversity management. Visits to places such as Bhujung village, Bandipur, Karma Coffee, Hamlet Inn, Sherchan Thakali Ghar, Lahana offered examples of sustainable mountain landscape management, local produce based value chain and enterprise development.

Hi-LIFE encompasses a well-preserved area rich in cultural and ethnic biodiversity including world heritage sites which can open door for regional ecotourism development. Mapping of ecotourism assets (Lisu and Singpho tribes), regional sharing of best practices (bamboo and mithun species), joint monitoring of illegal wildlife trade and joint organisation of eco-cultural events (Manau Festival and Water festival) and cross learning of best policy practices (tourism policy) all represent possibilities for the development of ecotourism. 

The TOT event was organised by the Landscape Initiative for Far-Eastern Himalayas (HI-LIFE) of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with Social Tours Nepal. Participants were from the three Hi-LIFE member countries – China, India and Myanmar.