Trekking Porters in Nepal, Roles and Responsibility of Himalayan Humanity Trekking and Trekkers
Mountain porters in Nepal are some of the strongest men and women on earth. These rugged people carry loads for the trekking and expedition industry, working for only a few dollars a day. Porters can be seen carrying loads of over 60kgs at altitudes exceeding 5,000 Meters. This is often done in cotton jackets and sandals. Porters are typically lowland farmers who migrate to the popular trekking routes in search of work. The money they earn while trekking is essential to the cash-starved local economies of rural Nepal.Tragically, too many porters die every year while trekking from preventable altitude sickness, falls, and hypothermia. Still others are crippled by snow blindness and frostbite. Trekking porters, who are the real backbone of the trekking industry, are working under the low basic right and facilities. There is still the lack of appropriate clothing, shelter, good wage and load limit and provision for treatment. Nepal's trekking industry, in the meantime, faces a critical situation because of the ongoing internal conflict between the Government and Maoist insurgents. The industry’s difficulties are now being exacerbated by the power game between the King and the political parties. The problems faced by the trekking industry flow on to Nepal’s porters and guides, who have greatly decreased opportunities for work, Porters and guides are struggling for survival of themselves and their families. This only adds to the long term problems with which porters are faced on a daily basis: lack of recognition of basic human rights including education, safe working environments, basic health care, living wages and, perhaps simplest but most fundamental of all, a widely observed load limit. Trekking companies are often unwilling or unable to provide their porters with even the most basic amenities and many mountain porters have limited education and some possess little or no literacy skills, porters, being unorganized and desperate for work, are unable to speak out against those that exploit them, This is why they are often vulnerable to exploitation and lack the confidence to speak up for their rights. As we understand and realize, Porters are the real backbone of the Nepali Trekking Industry and a weak backbone cannot carry a heavy load for very long. To improve the working condition and to create the sustainable future of Nepali trekking porters, Nepali trekking companies has the key responsibility and opportunities to create the brighter future of porters’ if we became interested just to give a small amount of care and commit. Considering this fact, dedicating to improve the porters working condition and dreaming to set an example to the trekking operators and trekkers, we have established a trekking company called Himalayan Humanity Trekking: with a Vision “A world in which trekkers experience the magnificence of the Nepali Himalaya and its people while porters and their families live with economic, social and environmental justice” and our efforts are aimed at creating a strong backbone for the trekking industry. Better working conditions and basic human rights of the porters and field staff are the cornerstone of the Himalayan Humanity. Himalayan Humanity follows these guidelines and encourages all stakeholders to follow them also:
- Porters must be hired through formal contracts, with clear terms and conditions for insurance, wages, load limits, accident/disability treatment provisions and other facilities. Before hiring porters and other staff, health checkups must be provided.
- Required equipment must be provided to porters and other field staff, for example; sleeping tents, protective clothing, carrying equipment and kerosene for their own use.
- Porters and other field staff must be provided the same standard of medical care as the client will be provided. Porters and other field staff must not be paid off because of illness and the staff leader must have authority to use the medical expenses for porters while they are sick.
- Porters must not be allowed to carry more than 30 kg loads in low altitude and 25 kg in high altitude, including personal allowance.
- Porters and other field staff must be provided at least 500 to 700 Rs per day in Tea-house trek and 300 to 400 Rs per day and food in camping trek.
- Porters should be provided training in First Aid, health and safety issues, altitude sickness, management of emergency situations, general health and hygiene, reproductive health education (HIV/AIDS/STI) English language, local flora and fauna and history. Focus will be given to those porters who are interested in career and personal development.
- Membership of porter unions and associations should be encouraged and supported, allowing porters to voice their own needs and concerns.
- Himalayan Humanity Treks empowers women by providing jobs and training as porter, porter/guide and guide
- We do not exploit child labour
As equal to the Trekking Company, foreign Trekkers have also strong role and opportunities for the wellbeing of Nepali Trekking Porters. Hiring a porter is the most direct means a foreign trekker has of contributing to the rural economies of Nepal. Over time, portering has fed more people in Nepal than any other industry, and porters need employment now more than ever.Also, as a paying client, you possess a great opportunity to advocate for the rights of the porters you hire. By employing porters and taking direct steps to ensure that they are given a standard of treatment that you would expect for yourself, you will be setting a strong example for other trekkers and tour operators to follow. Talk openly with your trekking company about porter treatment standards. Place yourself in a Porters’ shoes (or sandals), and make sure they are being properly provided for. Some appropriate questions may be:
- Where will the porters sleep?
- Will they be provided with adequate clothing?
- Are they provided with adequate rescue and medical insurance?
- Are they provided with food? If not, are they paid enough to ensure proper nutrition on the trail?
- How much weight will they be required to carry?
Providing for your porters costs money – so don’t be stingy. A few dollars per day can make a great difference in the facility available to your porters. Make sure your porters will be taken care of before you leave on your trek, and if your company cannot provide what you ask, find another company. Also, when it comes time to tip your porter (generally around 25% of their wage), be sure to tip them directly. Unneeded clothing and equipment makes a nice addition to your tip as well. Overall, set an example for other trekkers to follow. Treat your porters well, and spend time with them. Get the addresses of your porters after the trek and send them photographs – they will appreciate the gesture more than you can imagine. Lastly, try picking up a load yourself during your trek – it won’t take long to see how amazing these men and women truly are.