Early 2015 was all about working in rural Andhra Pradesh for me, as a part of my Master’s dissertation, and by April 2016 I was eager to embark on another journey to rural India. It had been more than a year and I was desperately looking out for opportunities when I came across I DO’s Champions of Change Fellowship.

The Fellowship was structured for a month (not just a week or two), provided a variety of choices with regard to the cause, organization and place of work, and had a workshop planned for all Fellows at the end of the fellowship – all factors that had me raring to go. I chose to be a Fellow at Spiti Ecosphere for a variety of reasons, some of which included – the opportunity to research on issues concerning environmental sustainability, meet and work with a motivated entrepreneur who is involved with sustainable tourism, gain insight on culture and traditions that I had not been exposed to before, and explore a region and terrain that I was previously unaware of as being one among the landscapes India has to offer.

As a research fellow at Spiti Ecosphere, I was given the task of analyzing traditional and altered means of livelihood through agriculture and livestock for locals at Demul village in Spiti valley. This task involved designing surveys and conducting focus group discussions with villagers. Furthermore, I had to study the sustainability of these altered livelihood options and design alternate, sustainable livelihood options that could be implemented by Spiti Ecosphere.

Prayer Flags are everywhere in Spiti

Working for Spiti Ecosphere gave me the opportunity to network with numerous social leaders and learn from their decisions and experiences. Their knowledge helped in fleshing out my understanding of Spitian traditions, which was a necessity for me to construct reliable, sustainable alternate livelihood suggestions with a solid foundation. Moreover, I am glad that, once again, I got to live in challenging rural environments that left me more educated, peaceful and happy at the end of the day, and motivated to continue using my skills for the social good.

Zings are water harvesting tanks to collect water from melting ice

Of course, waking up to a view of snow-clad mountains, trekking on pure green pastures to conduct interviews, drinking chai after chai at every interview, hiking for three hours to 16,700ft to understand the traditions in place to tackle the dearth of water for agriculture, and spotting the Himalayan blue sheep and the Lammergeier while conducting interviews are some of the added (undisclosed) benefits which made the research experience less challenging over time.

Bharals – The Himalayan Blue Sheep

Different place, different people and different traditions… these mean a whole new bunch of obstacles to overcome so as to have a productive research experience.  I Do provided the much-needed platform to be subjected to such a scenario. The organization supported my abilities by encouraging me to embark on this journey, which allowed me to be innovative and devise new ways to deal with difficulties that one often comes across during field work.

I DO‘s Role & Support:

I Do had successfully established itself as a platform for connecting social leaders with organizations that would provide a challenging and learning atmosphere through the fellowship. Personally, the organization played an additional, significant role in me being a research fellow at Spiti Ecosphere by offering me a scholarship to pursue the fellowship.

Moreover, this fellowship was beneficial because it calls for all fellows to meet just after the fellowship to discuss their experiences. Additionally, all fellows were familiarized with model sustainable villages in Maharashtra that can inspire and be a guide for fellows in their future work. The fellowship was an all-round experience that propelled me into a journey of striving to be a social leader, and I am grateful for the same.