FarmStays Ladakh (state of Jammu & Kashmir) is an interesting initiative involving mothers and other middle-aged women in Ladakhi villages who rent out rooms in their homes to tourists. Most of the young people have moved to the city of Leh to work or study. Now, the elders are responsible for every job in the household—right from looking after the farms to rearing cattle and more.
With the mission of improving the economy of these villages, FarmStays project was conceived with the notion of utilising the hospitality skills of the simple rural women. FarmStays project was started on a small scale in 2017. Most homes in the village have at least two spare rooms, letting them out to tourists is an easy and sustainable way of earning an alternative income.
Tourists can experience the true culture of Ladakh. Instead of just focusing on the artificial and made-up attractions in Leh, they get to live with the villagers, help them with their work, learn about their culture and more. Currently, FarmStays has 12 families on board and the women are trained on how to get their homes ready to accommodate tourists.
As winters are challenging in Ladakh, FarmStays are open only for the summer months from May to September. But, eventually, Sonam Wangchuk, the man behind FarmStays, plans to help install solar heated rooms in each house so that the initiative can turn into a full year source of income. In just three months after the project started, the women earned more than Rs. 1,50,000 (approximately 1900 Euros).
All the families are very excited that they can get income right from their homes. More than the money, the women see dignity in what they do. Tourists also get to participate in the daily livelihood chores of the women which enables them to understand and appreciate their culture.
The lack of regular water sources in the region makes farming very difficult for the villagers. So Sonam and his team came up with the idea of the Ice Stupa Artificial Glacier. This involved freezing unused stream water into huge cones of ice during winters, which would then melt into springs providing water to farms and trees.
FarmStays Ladakh is now raising funds to help more families prepare their houses for farm stays, train more women, and extend the project to other places like Nubra, Pangong, Sham, Kargil and Zanskar.