Livelihoods & Conservation

Mountain ecosystems and economies share an intricate balance. Whereas livelihoods are a critical area of concern for the development needs of the region, ensuring their balance with the ecosystem is equally critical to their sustainability. This balance is best achieved when there is a direct interdependence between livelihoods and the resources on which they depend. We believe economics can and must play a key role as a tool in conservation and conservation is possible when local communities are the primary stakeholders and decision-makers.

One of the major challenges in Spiti is the limited livelihood opportunities available to local communities and the short working window each year.

There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women
- Kofi Annan


With an understanding of these dynamics, we worked on creating and synergizing multiple livelihood options for the community, especially women, from locally-available resources that are unique and indigenous to the region. This on the one hand reduces over-dependence on one particular livelihood and on the other hand, ensures the conservation of the region’s natural and cultural diversity, enabling sustainable livelihoods that are intrinsically linked to conservation.



  • 500+ women empowered 
  • 4 decentralised processing units set up 
  • Equitable benefit sharing of earnings 
  • Creation of  a market for Seabuckthorn
  • Conservation of Seabuckthorn 
  • Creation of community centric policies 

Seabuckthorn berry also known as a ‘ Wonder berry’ is indigenous to Spiti and found in abundance along the river beds. True to its name, the Seabuckthorn plant has immense ecological and health benefits.

Seabuckthorn is the world’s richest known source of Vitamin C, containing large amounts of Vitamins K & E, 10 different vitamins, 24 trace elements/ mineral compounds, 18 amino acids, proteins, many bioactive substances and omega 3,6,7 and 9 oils. With its properties ranging from anti-cancer, anti-ageing to anti-radiation, Seabuckthorn has a host of health benefits due to its unique composition of minerals, vitamins and fatty acids making it a rare specimen in nature. Not only is it great for health, Seabuckthorn also has a highly developed root system and therefore presents an excellent biotic choice for soil conservation. Its roots are soil binders and also fix nitrogen – which works wonders for enhancing the fertility of the soil.

Up until the early 2000’s nothing much had been done to harness the immense potential of this berry in Spiti. Due to a lack of awareness within the local community of its immense value and hence economic potential, the plant was uprooted and used for fencing and fuelwood. This particular usage led to the depletion of almost 50% of the resource base in the valley.

In 2002, we began harnessing the untapped potential of the Seabuckthorn berry for the first time in the country as a community livelihood initiative. The objective was to ensure maximum benefits for the local community as well as conservation of the plant.

Make a Difference

Buy some Seabuckthorn

In Kaza ?

Drop into Sol Café or Taste of Spiti for refreshing seabuckthorn beverages!

Responsible Tourism


  • 100+ homestays established leading to 50% increase in annual income
  • 200+ youth and women trained in tourism-related skills and services
  • 1000+ tons of carbon emissions reduced/ annum

Our Responsible Tourism initiative aims at moulding tourism’s inevitable inroads in Spiti towards creating more positive impacts, out-weighing its negatives. The endeavour is to make tourism profitable for the traveller, local community, their culture and environment.

Maximizing Gains 

We looked at the obvious of how more money could percolate down to the locals in an equitable way, valuing community cooperation over competition. Identifying unique natural and cultural aspects of Spiti and developing meaningful travel programs around them was our first step. Next, we worked on training the local communities on how best to share and showcase these to travellers. This has not only provided the community with an additional source of income, but also served as an incentive to conserve their unique natural and cultural heritage and environment.

Over the years, we have developed numerous community based homestays, various trips and trails, experiences and activities that have been carefully planned and designed ensuring direct economic benefits to the locals with linkages to conservation. This has also invariably made a traveler’s typical sojourn to Spiti all the more interesting, providing an authentic and rewarding insider’s perspective into the region, its culture and ecology. Learn more about our unique responsible travel offerings here

Minimizing Negative Impact 

Tourism inevitably has a negative impact on the cultural and natural environment – from issues of garbage, waste management, and carbon emissions, to name a few. To address some of these concerns we took a few steps –

Reduce – Reuse – Recycle: Garbage is a challenge all over the world, however it is imperative that concerted steps be taken to reduce, reuse and recycle. With a view to address this, we initiated the I Love Spiti initiative to address and counter the mounting plastic crisis in Spiti. Learn more about the I Love Spiti initiative here

Building a community of informed and responsible travelers: Sensitization of travellers goes a long way in reducing negative cultural and social consequences of tourism. At Ecosphere we’ve been sensitising travellers about the ecological concerns and cultural traditions of the region with the aim to enable them to adapt their mannerisms to suit the region and to prevent negative social, cultural, and ecological impacts, either via social media, videos and visual material at cafes, homestays, and tourist attractions. Homestays, too, have been provided with suggestions on how best to interact with travellers. 

Going Zero Carbon: Carbon is a direct negative consequence of travel even if one tries to minimize it. At Ecosphere, we carefully calculate the carbon emitted on our trips which is then offset via investments in direct carbon reducing green technologies within the region, enabling a more green and sustainable development in Spiti as well. Learn more about these initiatives here

Make a Difference

Make a Difference to the people and place simply by travelling with us!

Demul Village Leads The Way

Community-led Tourism Done Right

Set across the beautiful trans-Himalayan meadows of Spiti, the Demul village homestays not only provide a much-needed source of additional income for the community, they also follow a unique rotational model to ensure even distribution of guests and the associated financial benefits across the village. The homestays are modeled on traditional patterns of village governance that favour cooperation over competition. Ever year, 2 village co-ordinators are appointed by the village who allocate the guests to homestays on a rotational basis ensuring equal benefits between all homestays. At the end of the year, the money is distributed equally amongst all the homestays directly into the hands of the women. This has not only empowered the women in the village but also prevented competition from setting in – which is often the case in tourist destinations and leads to a breakdown in community co-operation.

The Demul Homestays are a rare example and perhaps one of its kind in the world – demonstrating how tourism can be cooperative instead of competitive, and that collaborative community entrepreneurship enabling those more entrepreneurial to help and work alongside those less entrepreneurial is possible.

The Demul Homestays provide an intimate insight into the local culture and way of life of the Spiti community.

Arts & Crafts


  • Trainings & Design intervention support to 6 women SHGs
  • 5 traditional potters trained, set up 2 potters’ wheels & a kiln
  • 20+ youth trained in traditional songs & dances

Spiti has a kaleidoscope of unique handicrafts and art forms that the locals excel in. With changing times however, traditional arts and crafts also undergo change  and often witness a slow death. We are passionate about conserving traditional arts and crafts and have been keenly involved in not only marketing the more popular crafts, but also in reviving some of the traditional crafts that have almost died out or are slowly disappearing. 

Wool – empowering women & enhancing designs and technology

Wool of sheep, yak and goat is produced and every Spitian family traditionally transforms this wool into different items such as clothes (socks, gloves, sweaters, shawls), carpets, ropes, sacks, blankets, as well as shoes. This provides opportunities to local women and men to earn a livelihood while staying in their villages. Over the years, we have worked with local women groups to enable them to improve quality and designs for better marketability, along with helping them to market their products independently both in the local and outside markets. Training on spinning and carding along with improved technologies have been introduced which has helped to improve their productivity and the quality of their products. Workshops on natural dyeing techniques, design intervention, and marketing have gone a long way in diversifying their product range. 

Reviving Dying Crafts  

Some crafts in Spiti are gradually dying a slow death. We have worked with traditional artisans to try and revive some of these traditional crafts like mud pottery and yak wool spinning. The aim was to provide craftsmen with markets and an incentive to preserve their craft forms. 

Conserving Traditional Songs and Dances

Dance and music are intricately woven into the very fabric of Spitian life and culture. However, there are various songs and dances that are gradually getting forgotten. Most of these songs and dances are known only to a select few of the older generation and the current generation has gradually lost connections to them. As a way to instill pride in their culture and create a revenue stream, the youth were encouraged to learn traditional songs and dances and showcase them to travellers. We stepped in to support training of the youth in songs and dances. It is a practice we continue to strongly advocate as a way to keep the rich culture and stories of Spiti alive.

Make a Difference

Drop by our shops at Sol Café & Taste of Spiti for an exciting variety of hand-crafted products and souvenirs.

Indigenous Crops, Herbs & Dairy

Traditionally the crops grown in Spiti are barley and a local variety of pea (Black Pea or Kala Mattar). These crops are well-suited to the region’s peculiar geo-climatic conditions since they require minimum irrigation and are fairly drought resistant and hardy. They also have a high fodder content, with a high nutritional content, and possess the capability to increase soil fertility. With the transition of the Spitian economy to a cash economy, traditional crops (especially kala matar) face extinction and have gradually been replaced by market-friendly crops such as the green pea. The green pea however is both a water-intensive plant and extremely sensitive to geo-climatic variations. The introduction of the green pea has also brought pesticides and fertilizers in the valley which were unheard of till recently, thus drastically altering traditional agricultural practices. This change in agricultural practices has also triggered a number of subtle ramifications such as fodder shortages, change in dietary habits, and reduction in livestock especially horses.

With fewer locals now inspired to continue with their traditional organic practices, there is a grave threat to the very existence of the local species of crops. Our attempt is to revive these practices and crops and find a ready market for these exotic and natural foods with the aim is to provide these crops with an economic value for the local communities and thereby, enable their conservation.

Make a Difference

When in Spiti, Go Local!

By going local, you support farmers, artisans, and contribute towards the thriving of local culture and ecosystems.

Drop by our shops at Sol Café & Taste of Spiti for an exciting variety of local produce and souvenirs.

Try some of the local cuisine made from local crops and herbs at Taste of Spiti in Kaza.

Creating a Market

Towards that end, we are helping the communities create a market for indigenous crops such as kala matar and barley, local herbs such as wild onion and garlic, and dairy products such as grass-fed yak butter and ghee. These are now available at our shops in Kaza and we hope to expand the market for these in the coming years. Our restaurant ‘Taste of Spiti’ in Kaza continues to keep the momentum going by promoting and creating a market for indigenous crops and food. The purpose of the restaurant is to provide travelers with not just another place to dine, but also to provide them an insight into some of the local ingredients and cuisine. The main ingredients in most of our dishes are black peas and barley. Our endeavor is to create a local market for these crops, as well as packaging them for sale to the tourist market. Our most popular dish on the menu is the Falafel and Hummus we make out of Black Peas.

Trainings on cheese making to utilise the excess milk have been undertaken for village communities and we hope to soon come out with the highest cheese in the world!

By promoting indigenous produce, we hope to ensure the conservation of the region’s diverse traditional crops and the promotion of organic agriculture, the overall health of the soil and sustainable livelihoods for the local populace.

Other Initiatives

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