||Traditional Nepali dress © The Nepal Trust
Life for the Humli people is challenging, the agricultural season in these high mountain valleys being short and the winters long and severe, with most of the population living by subsistence farming amid the region’s difficult, though extraordinarily beautiful and dramatic terrain. This mountain landscape of high peaks, cut through by green valleys, turbulent rivers and forests of rhododendrons teeming with wildlife, and featuring Hindu and Buddhist temples, shrines and religious sacred places, make trekking in the region an extremely rewarding and rejuvenating experience.
The Nepal Trust, a Nepal-based British NGO, is the UNESCO partner in Humla, and it has been working in the region since the early 1990s. Over the last decade, the Trust has pioneered ecotourism activities in which tourists are guided by local people through the region’s spectacular scenery, before helping to design and build health clinics and education centres in a programme called “Trekking for Development”, thus twinning tourism and development in an original and sustainable way. The Nepal Trust is the only organization working to attract tourists directly to the Humla region, aiming to ensure that such tourism benefits the local population. It is also the only organization training local people to guide trekking groups.
The UNESCO / Nepal Trust project is building on these achievements by training more local people as trekking professionals, 30% of those trained being women. It is also improving the region’s trekking infrastructure, setting up campsites and other facilities run by local people, and promoting the Humla region both nationally and internationally through a Humla Trekking Web site. This will describe the natural beauty and cultural features of the region, providing information on trekking routes and good trekking practices.
At present, more than 200,000 tourists visit Nepal annually, but most of these stay in the capital, only 10% of Kathmandu trekking agencies offering excursions in Humla. The Nepal Trust project, emphasising local participation and employment opportunities, will see the benefits of the country’s tourism industry more widely and fairly distributed.