Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A look back at 2019

Thank you, for your love and for continuing to be a part of our journey of change! We had an incredible year at Ecosphere where the wonderful moments and triumphs of the year gone by would not have been possible without you! But there are miles to go still and Spitian miles - in particular - can seem long. But the journey, as always, remains beautifully rewarding.

Here’s a look back at what made the year 2019 special!

5 Greenhouses in the villages of Shego and Hull

The contemporary narrative on ‘know where your food comes from’ takes on a different meaning in Spiti. By ‘food’ we usually mean fresh vegetables which literally journey from the plains, over mountain passes and valleys for 2-3 days before they finally reach Spiti Valley! This is because it is extremely difficult to grow green vegetables in the stunning but difficult climes of high-altitude cold deserts like Spiti.

In keeping with the aims of our Greening the Desert program, we built a total of 5 Greenhouses in the villages of Shego and Hull this year with the help of volunteers.

The construction of these greenhouses takes us closer towards enabling local farmers to grow their own vegetables throughout the year.

Which means fresh, nutritious food options for the locals, better overall health, additional income from surplus, and reduced carbon emissions in the process!

Solar Water Pumps for access to drinking water throughout the year

With inadequate snowfall during winter and retreating glaciers each year, the villages of Spiti are on the frontlines of climate change. The people of Spiti are battling challenges unheard of before. Depleting groundwater levels leading to villages running out of drinking water in the summer. Droughts in the summer that destroy entire crops and livelihoods.

To address this concern, we experimented with the construction of artificial glaciers with a focus to recharge groundwater levels.

An artificial glacier

Another issue faced in the region is that villages in Spiti still have no access to drinking water in the winter. We installed solar water pumps to mitigate these concerns.

Readers who’ve been following our stories for a while may remember how the village of Pangmo ran out of drinking water in the summer of 2018. A phenomenon that was once restricted to the winters in Spiti Valley. The solar water pumps were put to use that summer as well, providing drinking water to the residents of Pangmo. And with it, came the realization that this wasn’t a one-off instance but a disconcerting sign of times ahead instead.

Nuns carrying the panels for the solar water pump

We’re happy to share that apart from the solar water pump we installed in Pangmo that year, we’ve been able to take it further with the addition of a new water storage facility in the village.

Fast forward to 2019 and 3 new villages - Rama, Hull, and Lara – now have access to drinking water. We hope the solar water pumps continue to make their lives easier in the harsh winters of Spiti.

Empowerment through quality healthcare

Health and the ecosystem one lives in are deeply interconnected. Spiti is surreal and beautiful, but the struggles of living in paradise are also abundantly real.

The remoteness and unforgivable terrain mean our communities have limited access to quality healthcare and are at risk of suffering from chronic illnesses or deficiencies. Access to basic diagnosis, treatment, and medication is scarce here.

Our healthcare program was introduced to address some of these concerns and ensure a better quality of life for the communities in Spiti. This year, we took our initiative a step further with the help of the University of Utah to conduct detailed Oral Health assessments, Public Health assessments, and Water Quality assessments.

I Love Spiti

A little history: In 2017, a group of passionate volunteers banded together to start the #ilovespiti campaign. It was a campaign born out of love for Spiti and collective dismay at the increasing amounts of plastic waste in the valley. Volunteers conducted education and awareness drives with both locals and tourists on the harmful effects of plastic on health and the environment.

This amazing group of volunteers also took their passion for the cause further – with an artistic declaration of enduring love for Spiti in the form of an installation made from discarded plastic bottles. When you’re travelling to Spiti next, stop by to view the installation at the Kaza gate near the Rangrik bridge.

In 2019 we set up 5 water refill points at key tourist destinations in Spiti and with the help of volunteers, collected over 2000 water bottles littered across the valley which were sent down to Manali for recycling.

Water refill points

Library for the children in Chicham

We set up a small library cum learning centre in Chicham for the children and youth in the village. The idea is to offer a common space for them to come together, play, learn, and borrow books throughout the winter!

The popularity of the Learning Centre has grown so much that children from neighbouring villages are making their way to Chicham to borrow books. Snow or dreary weather can’t seem to stop these little dynamos from arriving.

The center is slowly transforming into an engaging space of learning through games and activities - thanks to several volunteers who have helped us develop learning tools and catalog books.

Food for the stray dogs in the winter

The best memories from the mountains often involve its most loved residents – the magnificent and endearing mountain dogs! They’re a sight for sore eyes and limbs on treks, or postcards for loving each moment and living it.

While they’re footloose and fancy-free during the summer, the story can turn a shade darker in the winter. The bitter cold and food scarcity compel them to turn wild, where they often resort to hunting in packs and preying on livestock.

This challenge was met with compassion and love by an awesome group of women who spent their Sundays cooking food for the dogs. The women of the Mentok Self Help Group made sure they fed the dogs regularly during the week, even when temperatures would drop to a bone-chilling -25 degrees! Massive respect to them and their efforts!

The amazing Phunchuk

We first met Phunchuk in 2017 during our health assessments in Spiti Valley. He might have lost the ability of speech and movement in his right arm and legs, but that’s never stopped him from doing what he loves.

Phunchuk left all of us stumped back then, as he proceeded to skilfully draw and color with just his left hand and a smile to brighten any room!

In 2019, we were able to design postcards out of his stunning artistic creations, where he earned INR 7000 from the sale of these postcards. Phunchuk brings the heart in art and we hope to continue helping him in his artistic journey. His story is a beautiful reminder of how there’s nothing one can’t possibly do!

Spiti awaits!

So we're taking a leaf or ten out of Phunshuk's book and welcoming the new season with even more enthusiasm than before! We look forward to new adventures and stories in 2020! Thank you, for reading and we can't wait to have you over in Spiti this year.

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