Homestays of Mineral Spring, India

$1487 / $23400

 

 

Project:   ‘Homestays of Mineral Spring’ 

Location:  Darjeeling, India

Beneficiaries:  Community of Mineral Spring

Local sponsor:  Tathagata Journeys 

 

 

What does the project entail?

The proposed project will build on the success of an existing homestay initiative in the village, introduced by local sponsor Tathagata Journeys.  A stronger emphasis will be placed on tourism development, with an aim to promote the unique character and culture of the Mineral Spring area and contribute to its conservation and well being of its residents.  The project will invest in infrastructure, capacity building/training and employment to develop homestay tourism by:

- Investing in facilities; building extra guest rooms, environmentally friendly toilet/bathrooms, installing solar powered lighting and water heating systems, black and grey water management systems, rain water harvesting, and bio-gas for cooking

- Training local people to run home stays and farm stays and provide training in basic housekeeping, sanitation and hygiene

- Promote activities such as day hikes, bird and butterfly watching, permaculture courses, cultural exchange, volunteering opportunities in agriculture and forestry programs, kindergarten school teaching, yoga retreat, and opportunities for meeting local families.

- Train local youth as tourist/nature guides to welcome guests, lead hikes, inform guests of local wildlife/traditions, etc.

 

Background

Post independence in 1947, North Eastern India faced many challenges and the Mineral Spring suffered from severe unemployment, malnutrition and deforestation.  It took years for the area to recover to its current situation where it now preserves a link to its colonial past, as well as presents a model for conservation and sustainable livelihoods for the future.  It continues to produce premium Darjeeling tea, certified organic and fair trade labeled, but also produces a wide range of other products.  A return to a diversified agrarian/ plantation landscape, while retaining tea as a cash crop option, has resulted in significant ecological restoration of the area.  And a farmers’ collective, established in the face of large corporations, has demonstrated the importance of local institutions in a bid to promote environmental conservation and development.

However, the area still suffers from low incomes and employment opportunities are limited.  The local population is keen to welcome travelers and harness the positive aspects of tourism in a bid to progress and develop.

 

What challenges does the project seek to overcome?

Employment – there is a need for local residents to diversify their means of income which is principally reliant on agriculture.  Adverse weather and crop failure can put livelihoods at risk.  This project would allow the local population to embrace a new and growing trend for rural tourism and improve their future prospects

Biodiversity – the Mineral Spring benefits from incredible biodiversity through careful conservation and land management.  This is a huge asset to the area and there is opportunity to share the expertise and knowledge to a wider audience.  Permaculture courses and volunteering opportunities will facilitate this.

 

How the funds will be spent:   $23 400 (Loan)

Infrastructure

Building extra room and toilet/bathroom facilities with ‘black’ and ‘grey’ water management and rain water harvesting systems

 

 

$7 000

Installation of solar energy lighting system and water heater system

 

$8 500

Installation of biogas for cooking

 

$3 000

Capacity Building

Trainings of 2 nature guides from the community including training expenses, IEC materials @  $250 each

 

$500

Community awareness and policy consultations to develop local tourism policy and guidelines for visitors coming into the area (dos & don’ts)

 

$600

Training of 4 home and farm stay on housekeeping, preparation and presentation of local cuisine, sanitation and hygiene @ $100 each

 

$400

Advertising materials (brochure, pamphlets, etc)

$1 000

Honorarium

Honorarium to 2 trainee nature guides for 12 months after training, as an initial support @ $100 per month

$2 400

 

- Biogas:  the village is certified organic, and a biogas facility would only compliment this.  As a farming community, each of the four homestays has cattle, hence making biogas a viable and sustainable option.

- Solar Panels:  An erratic electricity supply has considerable impact on the area.  Solar panels would provide sufficient green energy to cover the domestic needs of home owners and their guests.

- Capacity Building:  Training and empowering the local population to become tourism providers and managers of the project.

- Infrastructure:  Facilities need to be improved to create better accommodation to host the travelers to a desired comfort level.

- Honorarium:  Providing paid employment from the project.

 

 

What will be the outcomes and impacts of the project?

- An increase in household income for those directly or indirectly involved in the project from the sale of goods and services, will improve the wellbeing and prospects of residents.

- On-going conservation of the biodiversity of the area.

- Local employment of two nature guides and part-time employment for cooks, farm guides, etc.

- Ideas exchange and potential collaborations - visitors might bring specialist knowledge or expertise and share ideas that may be beneficial to use in a local context.

- Contributions from tourism revenue will go towards the local development fund, for on-going work in the community.

 

What will the project offer the traveler?

The traveler will be welcomed into the community and given a unique experience and understanding of a Himalayan lifestyle and culture by staying with a local.  They will be informed about the project’s activities and goals, and meet many of the people whom it is benefiting.  They will gain an intimate insight into the challenges that face the community and discover the efforts being taken to overcome them.

Visitors will be sure to have a positive impact, in any number of ways in which they may participate during their stay – they might stay in a local homestay, cook traditional dishes with the family, be invited to assist on the farm, help harvest organic produce, teach English at the primary school, be guided through an area of intense wildlife and biodiversity, learn the principals of permaculture, stretch out in a yoga class or simply relax amongst friendly faces in beautiful surroundings. 

 

How will the project be financially sustainable?

Local sponsor Tathagata Journeys will oversee the project and in the first year provide training, capacity building, administrative and financial support (the cost of hosting the travellers) to the host community.  They will promote and market the activities on offer in the Mineral Spring and pay the hosts a fair and agreed margin on each booking.  From the second year onwards and as the need for their direct support reduces, the host community will take greater control over managing bookings, finances, and operations until ultimately they are in a position to completely manage and drive the project.  Tathagata Journeys will continue to offer support to ensure the project is self sustaining.

 

Local Sponsor details:

Tathagata Journeys believes in promoting socially just and sustainable tourism options.  They are firm supporters of Mineral Spring, having already encouraged a few residents/farm members to become part of an initiative to promote rural tourism in the area.  It has initiated three homestays and assists with other local projects.

 

Beneficiary details:

The Mineral Springs is located in the province of Darjeeling, in the backdrop of the Himalayas.  The community would like to become a model example of geotourism in the region.

“I feel proud to be a homestay member and letting travelers explore our village. We have been part of the premier organic small farmer group since 1998 and a number of buyers from abroad have visited our village but we did not have proper facilities to accommodate them in our home or village.  Although this idea of homestay was new, the number of travelers who has come here and stayed with us has experienced a very different rural life in Darjeeling. Their visits and the income generated through have helped us sustain our family, farm and community. -  Jungbir Chettri, a homestay member and community representative