HITT Mountain Leaders’ programme: an innovative private sector-led intervention

“We learnt that one can learn while having fun. We learnt about trekking safety, first aid, rope techniques, navigation, leadership… and now I feel ready to teach this” said Ratna, who has been working as trekking guide in Nepal for the past 5 years. Ratna was among the 41 participants who take part in a Training of Trainers (ToT) for Mountain Leaders in Kakani last January. During 11 days, experienced guides from different companies were taught the principles of active learning and andragogy in order to become trainers, in a course organised by the HITT programme.

New PictureIllustration 1: Rope techniques. Participants learn how to fold a rope and use it to transport a wounded person.

Through the HITT programme, SNV Nepal is working on poverty alleviation through training workers from the informal sector, women and youths into tourism related occupations, a sector that currently contributes to 7.7 percent of total employment and 8.8% of GDP (USD 1.4 billions) for the country. Based on their potential contribution to employment and income generation, five occupations linked to tourism were selected:waiters, room attendants and assistant cooks in the hospitality sector, and mountain leaders and homestay operators in the trekking sector.

In Nepal, the HITT programme has come up with an innovative solution in order to train mountain leaders and support staff to become trekking guides, therefore increasing their employability and income, at the same time as creating the capacity for trekking agencies to conduct their own internal training. According to the model, HITT invests in training private companies’ trekking guides as trainers, while companies invest in training beneficiaries. Because companies benefit from professionally trained in-company trainers and better trained trekking staff, they are ready to invest in the programme. At the same time, trained beneficiaries see higher chances to gain full employment and increased income. For the HITT programme, companies and beneficiaries, it is a win-win(-win) situation.

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Illustration 2: Leadership training; the participants learn about the important of good communication and leadership through practical activities.

The success of the initiative rests on three pillars: target the needs of the industry, re-enforce the capacity of private actors, and deliver quality programmes and training material based on international standards. HITT works closely with the private sector, in both the development and implementation of the training course. In collaboration with guides and trekking agencies, HITT has identified priority training needs and developed a six modules course to re-enforce the skills and professionalism of trekking staff in Nepal: (1) Guides Role and Values, (2) Leadership and Crisis Management, (3)Trekking Safety, (4) Map Reading  and Orientation, (5) Mountain Environment and (6) First Aid. The content of the modules also incorporates international standards of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), and best practices and lessons learnt from the Introductory Trekking Guide Course, a course run by the Petzl Foundation in partnership with the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).

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Illustration 3: Orientation; under the supervision of Niels Leenders, IML, the participants practice orientation in the field.

For the implementation of the training, HITT works with private companies: it trains their most experienced and motivated guides to become trainers within their company and teach end-beneficiaries: seasonal and temporary workers. Within a short time, HITT has secured partnerships with some of the country’s leading trekking companies, including Thamserku, Explore Himalaya, Himalayan Encounters, Sherpa Adventures, Three Sisters, Base Camp, Shangri-La Travels, Highlander, Dharma Adventures and Social Tours, and institutional partners: the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) and the Trekking Agents’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). After the Training of Trainers (ToT) is completed, these companies are going to organise their own in-company trainings, training their temporary and seasonal staff according to the HITT approach and methods, under SNV’s supervision.

In total, 41 trainers have successfully taken part in the first Training of Trainers organised in January 2013 in Kakani at the NMA training ground and the International Scout Center  The selected participants went through an 11 day course delivered by a team of 9 national and international trainers, Mountain Leaders (ML) and outdoor specialists (South Africa, Netherlands, UK and France), in collaboration with the Petzl Foundation. These 41 new trainers are going to train another 480 guides, including more than 378 workers from the informal sector, seasonal or temporary workers, through 19 trainings organised by companies with the support of SNV’s staff and master trainers. Two companies – Himalayan Encounters and Thamserku – have already successfully trained 25 beneficiaries each, and the team is currently supporting other companies to implement their own training.

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Illustration 4: Participants and trainers on the last day of the ToT.

SNV is currently working with the Petzl Foundation to create a unique Mountain Leaders course, based on international professional standards and on HITT teaching methods. SVN and the Petzl Foundation also work with the NMA on integrating the course into its existing curriculum. The ML course, which will be UIAA certified, will be monitored and assessed by the NMA. Once in place, the system will allow Mountain Leaders to be trained by private companies and be assessed by the NMA, hence increasing the total training capacity and answering the demand for professionally trained trekking guides in Nepal.

Under pressing demand on behalf of companies, further trainings (for trainers and beneficiaries) are already planned. These will be organised during the next low seasons.

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Illustration 5: A poster on Nepali climate prepared by participants during a training of beneficiaries in Sankhu.