Leg-up for Ladakh

Ladakh resembles paradise, it is often said, but the beauty of the still-remote region’s Himalayan landscape shrouds a rough reality — this is an expanse where social development has had a difficult time making inroads. Easing the hardships local mountain communities face is the objective of the Leh Livelihoods Initiative, a wide-ranging programme seeded and implemented by Himmotthan Society, an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts. Collaborations with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, and a network of NGOs boost the programme, which works to improve the quality of life of small-scale farmers through water resources development, the promotion of agriculture, infrastructure enhancements, skilling projects and more.

Farming is the mainstay of Ladakhis and it tops the agenda of the Leh Livelihood Initiative. Improved agricultural practices and scientific know-how have helped these farmers from Takmachik village near Leh reap a bumper watermelon harvest.
Women weavers from Khaltse — one of the 30 villages in Leh district that are part of the programme — have organised themselves into self-help groups to find new markets and get a better price for their products.
Sonam Yangdol (left) from Takmachik demonstrates the apricot harvesting technique that has helped farmers involved in the Leh Livelihoods Initiative improve their crop yield, find access to new markets and procure more money for their produce.
Rinchen Yangzes from Takmachik village dries apricots in a dryer. Value chain development in apricot farming is an important component of the initiative.
Konchok Dorjai, a field facilitator with Himmotthan Society, in an improvised tent made from a parachute and used to dry apricots in Takmachik village.
Tsewang Yangzin (left) and Sonam Chonzom from Nyoma village work the fly shuttle loom. Among the goals of the Leh project are enhancing the skills of local artisans through training and capacity building and preserving traditional knowledge.
The Tongyik family ploughs their field using dzos — a cross between a yak and a cow — in Nang village.