Homestay Steering and Management Training and Cultural Festival

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The Dzongu area of North Sikkim, India, presents immense potential for ecotourism and subsequent livelihood-building opportunities owing to its rich diversity in terms of culture and tradition, flora and fauna, and conservation reserve. Importantly, the indigenous Lepcha tribe has shown interest in exploring ecotourism, which is why Dzongu was selected as one of three principle pilot sites of the Kangchenjunga Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative’s (KLCDI) programmes in India. The KLCDI is a transboundary programme that covers parts of Bhutan, India, and Nepal, providing valuable ecosystem services that support the wellbeing and livelihoods of people living in the Kangchenjunga Landscape (KL). The whole state of Sikkim and four districts in West Bengal – Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Jalpaiguri – are delineated under KLCDI-India. 

The KLCDI-India programme is focusing on the livelihood diversification and economic development of marginalized communities, specifically in the three identified pilot sites. All of these sites display high potential for rural tourism, particularly community-based tourism under which benefits are equitably shared.

To promote and conserve Dzongu’s cultural heritage, the Songbing Tourism Management and Development Committee (STMDC) was formed in 2017 under the KLCDI-India programme with the active involvement of the local community; the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development – Sikkim Regional Centre (GBPNIHESD-SRC), which is the lead institution of KLCDI-India; and Mutanchi Lom Aal Shezum (MLAS), a partner NGO based in Dzongu. Given the local interest in ecotourism, the planning of an ecotourism festival had been initiated in 2017 to highlight Dzongu’s potential. 

To strengthen community-based ecotourism as a means for livelihood and economic development, capacity building of the local communities and creating a better understanding of ecotourism development were identified as key intervention areas during the planning process. In this aspect, training and exposure visits for “Homestay Steering and Management” and “Cultural Festival” have been organized in Lingdem, Dzongu, from 21 to 26 January 2019, in collaboration with the various partner organizations and with support from the local community of Lingdem-Lingthem GPU, Dzongu. 

The main objectives of the events are to 

  • promote ecotourism in KL-India for livelihood improvement; 
  • improvise and strengthen ecotourism services (homestay and hospitality) in all three pilot sites of the KL; 
  • encourage and support homestay owners to engage in ecotourism entrepreneurship; 
  • showcase the Lepcha culture and tradition to a wide range of visitors, including representatives from Nepal and Bhutan; and 
  • provide a platform for cross-learning and sharing of experiences, with visits to KL partner countries and on-site exposure visits.