The farmstays are a unique concept wherein students live with local families and get to learn and closely experience Ladakhi culture. They can work with the amaleys and other family members on the farms and learn how to grow vegetables or milk the cows.
This residential life is an experience unique to HIAL and gives the students an opportunity to learn about rural life and to understand the challenges faced by the local communities.
Staying with the communities allows the fellows to experience the day-to-day life and activities within Ladakhi communities. Simple yet unnoticed aspects of Ladakhi culture such as sitting around the bukhari (stove) in the chansa (winter kitchen), engaging in conversation with the abiley (grandmother), memeley (grandfather), and other family members, making momos and other Ladakhi cuisine are lived experiences that cannot be replicated or replaced. These encounters allow the fellows to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of Ladakh and become memories that they will carry with them even post their year in the fellowship.
Cultural of Ladakh
Famous for its picturesque beauty and unique culture, Ladakh is a high altitude desert that extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun Ranges. Low precipitation combined with extreme temperatures, makes life in this mountainous region challenging. Ladakh has a population of 274,289, a majority of which resides in rural areas. About 2,500 people live in the Phyang Valley, where HIAL is located. Most of the land is barren and the entire region relies primarily on the melting waters of the glaciers for agriculture and daily use. Agriculture and the services sector drive the local economy of Ladakh, with most Ladakhi youth typically employed in government jobs or the tourism sector.
Ladakh is majorly populated by Buddhists and Muslims. At almost every turn of the road, one can locate a monastery (gompa). A quiet and spiritual place, Ladakh is home to people who have weathered and adapted to its harsh climates and terrains by applying many traditional methods and innovations (such as dry toilets which use little to no water).
From making momos and learning how to make other Tibetan and Ladakhi cuisine, the fellows will get to live a life that is replete with culture and activities. Student groups will also organize Ladakhi music and dance nights.
Students clubs along with the Programme Team will organize events such as interactive board games night, anime and movie screenings and also peer to peer learning events where the fellows will teach one another and also, the villagers in Phyang. They will also have the opportunity to learn local crafts from the amaleys and other local artisans who will organize workshops on the same.
Camping and field trips, watching meteor showers and going on environmental trips- all these activities allow the fellows to learn and interact with nature while also witnessing the problems that Ladakh is witnessing on account of climate change, increased tourism activities and water shortage.