Overtourism held its unlucky head high all of last year, as several tourist spots temporarily closed down or imposed restrictions. To avoid such pressures on local populations in India—especially Himalayan settlements—an organisation called GreenPeople is working to rejig old ways of sustenance. Focusing on grassroots travel that gets your hands dirty, GreenPeople engages in bee farming, harvesting vegetables, building using traditional architecture, and goat rearing.
Out of all these initiatives, their ‘Bakri Swayamvar’ event is what grabs most eyeballs. And this symbolic event goes much deeper than just being an intriguing headline.
Several villages in Uttarakhand are in areas that are infertile or unirrigated, making livestock the most viable option to keep local economies running. Goats far outnumber sheep, with most owners being marginalised farmers who let the animals graze and roam free. While this provides postcard-perfect vistas for the odd backpacker passing through, there’s not much systematic growth here in terms of broadening gene pools. There’s also not enough awareness of healthy breeding practices. GreenPeople, thus, will be holding the third edition of what they call ‘Bakri Swayamvar’ on March 21. Now their signature event, it helps boost genetic diversity for goat populations in the area and educates farmers about a higher grade of livestock rearing.
Remember your middle school science lessons? How about a bit of history? Adaptation and evolution are necessary steps for any species to flourish. This resilience-building in species—be it human or bovine—is what helps them last generations without defects. At the ‘swayamvar’, female goats will be allowed to pick male bucks of their choice. This random selection will lead to gene pool improvisation, and thus long-term patterns of positive traits in future generations in the area. If only Europe’s Habsburg family—infamous for inbreeding—had followed the same idea. Their centuries worth of royal intermarriage caused a severe lack in genomic diversity, leading to genetic disorders that eventually ended their powerful legacy.
The Bakri Swayamvar is a simple, scientifically-backed idea dedicated to local patterns of production, and GreenPeople’s efforts to elevate indigenous Indians won them the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards (IRTA) in 2019. Their work has been part of many case studies, with researchers and travellers opting for curious visits. The fun names of each ‘bride’ sure help.
For season 3, the belles of the ball will be Maya, Mamta and Mehbooba. If you’re eyeing a visit to witness this social engineering event that’s one-of-a-kind, you’re not alone. The charming valley of Pantwari saw its footfall shoot up more than forty times at a past edition, as people drove in to enjoy crisp mountain weather and fragrant pahadi food. With season 3 promising to be bigger, it’s best to book in advance for this mini-holiday with a cause.
If you’ve trekked to Nag Tibba in the past, you might also recognise GreenPeople’s Goat Village, a cluster of cottages set in untouched Garhwali hills. A familiar midpoint en route the trek, the village offers a cosy curated stay alongside birdwatching and forest trails.
In past editions, the ‘swayamvar’ has led to free insurance and vaccination for over 5,000 goats and sheep in the Jaunpur region of Tehri Garhwal. In true GreenPeople style, the second edition was entirely zero waste—a rarity in our subcontinent—with compostable plates and cutlery for thousands of people. We’re keen to see what domino effect is in store for Season 3.
The ‘swayamvar’ ceremony will be held on March 21, 2020, at Thikana at Rikholi Village, near the Lambidhar Mines of Dehradun, Uttrakhand. Visit grppl.in to learn more about the organisation behind the event, or contact Terra Tales Experiences (+91 9811311144/9810362445, firstname.lastname@example.org) to bag curated experiences and hotels near the venue.
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