• Community Livelihoods & Enterprise

    Community Livelihoods & Enterprise

Improving Local Economies

Current Projects

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) Program

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) Program

Remote mountain regions often harbor extreme poverty due in part to geographic isolation, harsh topography, limited livelihood options and workforce outmigration to urban areas. In response, The Mountain Institute has worked with mountain farmers in remote areas of Nepal’s Himalayas for over a decade, teaching them to cultivate and sell medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs). These agro-enterprises enable the farmers to earn more money and meet their families’ basic needs while also protecting native MAPs and local forests from destructive harvesting practices. We primarily work with farmers in the districts of Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha in the Kanchenjunga region, Rasuwa and Dhading in the Langtang region, and Humla in western Nepal.

Building upon our knowledge, experience and success in Nepal, we have expanded our MAPs program to the Peruvian Andes. In the communities of Huasta and Aquia we are working with many women farmers.

For more info, check out our recent video about MAPs in Nepal. Or read our blog: “High Poverty: Medicinal Plants Offer Way Forward for Nepal’s Mountain Communities.”
Securing Mountain Water and Livelihoods in Peru’s Ancash Region

Securing Mountain Water and Livelihoods in Peru’s Ancash Region

The Mountain Institute is working with local communities, municipalities and universities in the Ancash Region of central Peru to strengthen local economies and increase their resilience to climate change related impacts. In this region water availability is decreasing while the risk is growing for glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Changing precipitation patterns, increasing temperatures and other climate hazards are all threats to remote mountain communities. We are helping municipalities advance sustainable development and climate change adaptation plans and also assisting them to leverage public funds to implement their plans. The Institute is helping to build local universities’ capacity to provide climate change relevant training and undertake useful applied research. This research seeks to answer questions and develop solutions for local governments and communities. Finally, we are working with community and grassroots groups to develop new livelihood options such as medicinal and aromatic plant production. This initiative is made possible by funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Past Programs

  • Beyul Trails

    Building Livelihoods Along Beyul Trails

    This three-year project’s purpose was to spread the benefits of tourism more equitably among the local people in the Everest region of Nepal, while preserving indigenous culture and environment through education and awareness-building. The goals of the Building Livelihoods initiative included:
    • A plan to teach Sherpa language and script to 1,000 school children from Khumbu and Pharak
    • Reaching more than 20,000 tourists visiting Khumbu through cultural information in the interpretive displays, brochures and films
    • Making home-stays and cultural/ecological trekking available to more than 1,500 people in the target communities of Thame, Phortse, and Gyiphide
    • Training hundreds of households in off-the-trekking-route communities within the Thame Valley in Sagarmatha
    • National Park in tourism/business enhancing practices. Extending training to residents of the Tate, Sengma,
    • Lhawo and Gumela villages in the Pharak Buffer as well
    • Recruiting non-local individuals, such as middle class Nepali people, to work and visit in the Park
    In 2009, at the completion of the project, TMI could count the following achievements as part of the success of the program:
    • A Sherpa language dictionary completed
    • Several Sherpa folksongs documented
    • An interpretive exhibit at Sagarmatha National Park Visitors Center installed
    • A ritual arts exhibit at Kyarok Monastery installed
    • A visitor information center at Namche Monastery created
    • A Nepali-language version of the Beyul documentary film produced
    • Sherpa language educational resource materials created
    • Teachers trained in the Sherpa language
    • The Kathmandu International Film Festival (KIMFF) founded
    • A seven-day village tourism operators training provided
    • An interactive program on village tourism created
    • The Khumbu Mountain Center constructed
    • An income generation project developed at Thame Monastery
    • A Yak handicraft development training held, along with a Yak handicraft production workshop
  • China Program

    China Program

    The ethnic Tibetan areas of China presented difficult challenges to sustainable development because of their remoteness, environmental fragility, lack of social services, and fluid economic and political conditions. In response, TMI implemented the Tibetan Plateau Development Program (TPDP) in the Tibetan areas of China since 2004. Prior to this project, TMI ran the Peak Enterprise Program, the first private sector development initiative in Tibet’s history. In the late 1980s, TMI worked with local Tibetan authorities to form the Qomolangma (Everest) Nature Preserve on the Tibet side of Mt. Everest. After establishing the preserve, TMI worked to develop a bilateral agreement between the Dutch government and the PRC which created the Qomolangma (Everest) Conservation Program. The major focus areas of our work were:
    • Livelihood improvement of herders and farmers
    • Rangeland conservation and management
    • Handicraft development
    • Conservation of cultural heritage
    The work consisted of core activities and sub-grants, which were designed to significantly extend the program’s impact. Sub-granting was designed to support a variety of capable local community groups, domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and relevant government institutions, which lacked the financial and technical resources to implement projects successfully on their own. With the wealth of experience gained over many years of project implementation, TMI worked intensively with these partners to pilot effective solutions to the problems and challenges faced by rural Tibetan populations.
  • Food for Enterprise

    Food for Enterprise Program

    TMI worked in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme to provide food and community-development assistance to food insecure regions of Nepal. Over the course of this project, TMI delivered over 13.6 million pounds of rice and lentils to over twenty thousand farming families in extremely remote villages affected by severe drought. Communities involved in Food for Enterprise worked on projects developed with TMI‘s assistance–improvements to community schools and trails, community agriculture and irrigation projects, and water-driven gristmills. These projects met basic but critical needs, and helped create the foundations for community-driven enterprise. By end of June 2010, TMI completed programs in over fifty village development committees, located mainly in the Humla, Mugu, Jumla and Dolpo districts. Food was used as currency in exchange for unskilled labor, helping families meet four months of their annual food needs.
      Community projects completed include:
    • Eleven agricultural land improvement projects covering 12 hectares
    • Forty irrigation canal construction /improvement projects that irrigate 160 hectares of agricultural land
    • Twenty-two trail improvement projects that improved over 30 kilometers of trails
    • Forty school support programs
    • Five community bridges
    • Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) cultivation and conservation training to 1200 farmers
    • Market study of medicinal and aromatic crops and other cash crops
    • Farmer-to-farmer visits to east Nepal medicinal and aromatic crop sites
    • Feasibility study and pilot on minimum tillage (Simikot)Support for distribution of micro-nutrient packets to children in all four districts (serving approximately 15,000 children under 60 months of age)
  • Inca Road

    Great Inca Road

    The Great Inca Road project was instituted in 2004 on a 7,000 km stretch of the Royal Inca Highway in Ancash, known in the local Quechua language as Inka Naani. This road connects six formerly remote communities, who now provide hospitality to visiting tourists. This boost to tourism in the region created new sources of income and development opportunities for the local people. In 2008, this initiative was replicated in a new section of the Royal Inca Highway in Piura, Peru. In 2009, through a partnership with World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations (SGCAN), the program was extended to three new sites: Sangay National Park in Ecuador, and Nor Yauyos Protected Cultural Landscape and Huascaran National Park in Peru.

    In partnership with IUCN and the Abertis Corporation, TMI staff member Miriam Torres wrote an introductory book on Ancestral Roads and Biodiversity Conservation program. This publication served to introduce the concept of the Inca Road Project to local policy makers in mountain regions. In addition to the book, a traveling exhibit was developed to help spread awareness of the benefits of the project. The exhibit began at Huascaran National Park headquarters and traveled to other Inca Road sites, introducing the public to the project and its potential to conserve Andean heritage. In addition, TMI established a partnership with REPONS (Responsible Tourism) thanks to a grant from IUCN-Netherlands, supporting market access to community-based tourism along the Royal Inca Highway.
  • Langtang Park

    Langtang National Park Ecotourism Project

    The Mountain Institute helped design a comprehensive community-managed eco-tourism plan for Langtang National Park. This plan established some of the first porter associations in Nepal, supported lodge management committees run by local communities. These groups helped establish pricing and sanitation norms, and enhanced cooperation between villages along a significant tourism route. In addition, TMI helped create local committees to regulate use of sacred lakes and wetlands in the park visited by tourists and religious pilgrims.
  • Tibetan Plateau

    Tibetan Plateau Development Project

    This project aimed to increase the quality of life of poor villagers living on the Tibetan Plateau, and to conserve natural resources in the area. Four years of work on rangeland conservation, enterprise development and cultural heritage preservation were successfully completed in 2009. The major achievements of this program include increases in income for herders and farmers, establishing a rangeland co-management model, reviving the ancient Nixi pottery tradition, and establishing community-based ecotourism in Shangri-la. Other accomplishments include restoring cultural sites, books, and traditions, and, most importantly, the launch by the local governments of several pilot projects in other locations in western China. TPDP project activities were implemented in three counties: Diqing Prefecture, Yunnan Province and Hongyuan County of Sichuan, serving a total of 25,509 people, 45% of whom were women.

    Natural Resource Management

    • 22 high altitude four-in-one (greenhouse + toilet + pig pen + digester) biogas units were installed in poor rural households in Sichuan and Yunnan. The units help lower carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, improve community sanitation conditions and reduce women’s labor burden.
    • 84 solar water heaters and two community water supply systems were installed in poor upstream communities, providing villagers with clean water, thereby improving public health.
    • Villagers and government agencies mobilized to plant more than 6,000 willow tree saplings, covering an approximate area of 20,000 square meters to help reduce soil erosion and regulate the quantity and quality of water flow in a critical watershed.

    Cultural Heritage Preservation

    • We worked with the Diqing Prefecture Bureau of Cultural Management to host a seminar on indigenous traditional culture and development with official representation from the UNESCO Culture Sector and other guests.
    • Published a full-color, tri-lingual (Tibetan – English – Chinese) brochure, introducing TMI‘s cultural heritage preservation activities in Sichuan and Yunnan.
    • Provided rural marketing support, promoted traditional artisanal craftsmanship and building critical market linkages for small, village-based, family-owned operations.

    Enterprise Development

    • Erected visitor signage and tourist facilities in the Baimang Mountain Nature Reserve, promoting environmental awareness in fragile mountain areas.
    • Partnered with a community-based organic honey processor in Bazhu Village to develop effective supply-chain management .
    • Strengthened yak meat processing method, creating a five-fold increase in product sales and generating an estimated 2.4 million Yuan (over US$ 350,000) in revenue for Hongyuan County.
    • Trained local tour guides on the history, culture and production of Nixi black pottery
    • Trained village-based tourist service providers on hosting, and other tourism-related activities.
    • Developed codes of conduct for ecotourism and nature tourism in national parks, promoting equitable, green and sustainable development at the community level.
    • Facilitated partnership activities between village-based entrepreneurs and the Banyan Tree Hotel, an internationally renowned luxury line
    Our sub-grant program broadened the reach and depth of our core program. Sub-grants supported:
    • Local NGOs to safeguard traditional Tibetan Zhani music, a unique two-string instrument facing cultural extinction
    • Roots and Shoots to integrate environmental education into the primary school curriculum in Hongyuan
    • Publication of a book of proverbs compiled from remote farming and nomadic villages in western Tibet
    • The establishment of the Hongyuan Women‘s Federation to improve female herders‘ access to health education and basic services in Anqu Township
    • Training for local villagers in biodiversity monitoring and publication of a guidebook of alpine flowers, supporting environmentally responsible niche tourism in Shangri-la
Since 1972 The Mountain Institute has partnered with remote mountain communities in the highest, longest and oldest mountains of the world. We work together to conserve ecosystems, develop sustainable livelihoods and protect unique mountain cultures.