Experiences in Ladakh 2017
“Everyone at Local Futures was really great. I learned a lot and it was definitely an eye-opening learning experience…. I’m inspired to push for more localization initiatives in my own community as well as making an effort to support local economies in my own personal life!”
~ Learning from Ladakh workshop participant ~
The summer of 2017 was another busy season in Ladakh, involving exciting new collaborative efforts. Our Ladakh team included: Richard Hendin, Henry Coleman, Sean Keller, Alex Jensen and Anja Lyngbaek. We would like to give special thanks to the many volunteers that dedicated their time and skills to the Ladakh Project in 2017.
Mindful Futures workshop
Our most rewarding activity this summer, was a four-day Mindful Futures Workshop, brought about in collaboration with Flowering Dharma – a youth-led organisation – and Skarma Gurmet from Juley Ladakh. The workshop targeted Ladakhi youth and was held at Raku House – an old traditional House in Leh beautifully restored by Flowering Dharma.
To facilitate participation from across Ladakh, the workshop offered the possibility of residency. Raku house with its adjoining woodland and open greens provided the perfect setting, providing ample space for tents and outdoor enabling games, group reflections and discussions. The workshop was organised in record time, after a brief meeting between Flowering Dharma, Juley Ladakh and Local Futures, which led to a spur-of-the-moment-decision to collaborate.
Despite this, it was a great success – 18 Ladakhis – Buddhist and Muslims – (including two young Nepalese immigrants) participated fulltime. To facilitate participation from across Ladakh, the workshop offered the possibility of residency. Raku house with its adjoining woodland and open greens provided the perfect setting, providing ample space for tents and outdoor enabling games, group reflections and discussions.
The workshop was organised in record time, after a brief meeting between Flowering Dharma, Juley Ladakh and Local Futures, which led to a spur-of-the-moment-decision to collaborate. Despite this, it was a great success – 18 Ladakhis – Buddhist and Muslims – (including two young Nepalese immigrants) participated fulltime. An additional 20+ people assisted for part of the workshop. Geshe Konchok Wangdu, head of the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies (CIBS), drew additional listeners, as did a panel discussion with Tashi Morup from Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation(LAMO), Dolma Tsering from Ladakh Buddhist Association and historian and writer Abdul Ghani Sheik. Stanzin Gya, director of the award-winning film Shepherdess of the Glacier, also drew a crowd.
The central themes of the workshop were: ´prosperity in a fragile environment, Ladakh´s challenges from a global perspective; localisation in action worldwide and building a mindful future for Ladakh. Activities included presentations, film screenings, role-plays, pair-sharing, creative projects, reflection and discussion, including a fruitful exchange session between local politicians and the youth. The feedback we got from workshop was extremely encouraging and we aim to continue our education-for-action work with Ladakhi youth.
Learning from Ladakh program
This year, we developed a Learning from Ladakh program for Operations Groundswell (OG) – an organization that seeks “to spark a movement of socially conscious and globally active backpack-activists”. Youth from the US, Canada and Mexico took part in the programme, which involved a five-day intensive workshop, fieldtrips and encounters with Ladakhi NGOs and innovators.
a heritage walk to learn about Ladakh´s history and multicultural roots;
a field trip to the dump of Leh, to experience the growing waste-mountains resulting from increased tourism and the onslaught of consumerism;
a hike to a melting glacier to see the impacts of climate change first-hand;
encounters with youth groups, including Flowering Dharma and Unexplored Ladakh and a small bicycle tour company run by young Ladakhi activists.
Woman's Alliance Center
Local Futures staff and volunteers assisted at the Women’s´ Alliance Centre (WAL), with upkeep and renewal. For example, stellar volunteer, Sheena Patel, painted new signs for the WAL craft shop, designed attractive and informative labels for the local crafts on sale and promotional poster for the WAL festival. The yearly festival celebrates Ladakhi culture and showcases local foods, crafts, music and dance. It brings together Ladakhis, and foreigners, for a two-day event that highlights the importance of a living culture, rather than “culture” as a tourist commodity.
As tourism is a great agent for change, we continue to reach out to visitors with information and activities that can help people to rethink development and foment culturally and ecologically sensitive behaviour and solutions. Daily films screenings of Ancient Futuresand the Economics of Happiness – shown on alternate days – took place the Women´s Alliance Centre in Leh, from June to October. Between 1500-2000 people participated in the screenings and the subsequent lively discussions, led by Local Futures´ facilitators. We also organised a successful one-day Economics of Happiness workshop in June, as part of our Tourist Education programme.
Tourists numbers in Ladakh continue to rise, and with it, the associated negative impacts: mountains of garbage (an entire valley is full of disposable plastic bottles); excessive water-use due to tourist-demands for flush toilets and showers, degradation of natural areas and disturbance of wildlife and the erosion of Ladakhi culture and values. For several years, we have been sharing Mindful Travel materials with tourists in Ladakh.
This year, however, we made a specific effort to share our Mindful Travel short film with other groups and to run regular screenings of the film at the Women’s Alliance Centre. The messages of the film were very well-received and generated a lot of comments like: ‘I wish I had seen this film before coming’. We are now approaching Ladakh travel-orientated websites with an invitation to include a link to the film on their website.
We have also reached out to a number of Ladakhi NGOs – Snow Leopard Conservancy, the Ladakh Ecology Development Group, Women´s Alliance, Ladakh Environment and Health Organization, LAMO and The Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) etc. – with a proposal for a joint Mindful Travel campaign. A joint approach would have far greater impact and could potentially secure the support of the Ladakh´s Hill Council and result in concrete policy changes. Read more here: Mindful Travel.
Food and Farming
Local Futures has been supporting an organic farming conversion-project located in the higher part of Phyang village. The project, organised by WAL, brings surplus manure from nomadic livestock-based communities to farming families, as a substitute to chemical fertilisers. The brought-in manure is intended as stop-gap, while the farms regain their capacities to produce sufficient compost and animal manures. The first year was a success. Participating farmers reported strong plants and good yields and are keen to continue.
Our Help with Harvest initiative, which enables tourists to assist Ladakhi farming families during the harvest, was coordinated by Richard Hendin. As in previous years, visitors from across the world came to help out with the harvest of barley – cutting, stacking and carrying barley together with the villagers they were assisting.