25 years on ‘the Roof of the World’

EcoHimal is celebrating the silver anniversary

Eco Himal, the Society for Development Co-operations Alps-Himalaya, can look back on 25 years of eventful, challenging – and deeply rewarding – people-to-people development activity in the high Himalayas.

Based in Salzburg, Austria, Eco Himal now has offices and sister-organizations in Nepal, Switzerland, England and Italy. Over the years, its grassroots-based projects have helped to improve the lives of thousands of villagers in the Himalayas. Financing, to the tune of more than € 25 million, has come largely from Austrian development assistance, supplemented by donor contributions, CSR projects and sponsorships.

Sustainable development in focus

‘It all began in Nepal in 1991’, explains Dr Kurt Luger, Eco Himal chairman and professor at Salzburg University. ‘Eco Himal had just been founded, and the Austrian Foreign Ministry approached us: would we be interested in a small-scale hydropower project at Thame, high in the Everest region? From the start, we focused on involving the local people in all aspects of the work: this was to be their project. Technical training was arranged for young Sherpas, as was training in accountancy and business management. Together with the village council we developed an organizational and financial plan, to make the project self-sustaining in the long run. Renewable energy to protect the forests – that was the slogan.

‘And it worked! As the first NGO, we were awarded the prestigious King Albert Medal of Merit, for sustainable development in a Himalayan community. According to the text of the award: The project, together with additional incentives involving solar energy, clearly demonstrates how eco-political needs of society can be effectively met, saving fuelwood and reducing excessive deforestation.

‘Not only that’, reflects Prof. Luger, ‘they summed up our work in a nutshell: In addition to energy and infrastructure projects, Eco Himal focuses its attention on poverty alleviation through rural development, on biodiversity conservation, on promotion of sustainable mountain tourism, and on assistance in protecting Nepal’s rich cultural heritage.’

The list of Eco Himal’s achievements is impressive: waste management on Mt Everest and environs; the Thame-Namche hydropower plant, supplying electricity for Sherpa villages and the local tourism industry; local health-posts set up in remote villages where no tourists come, and appendicitis can be fatal; training villagers in ecological agriculture; establishing schools to promote literacy; and providing villages with potable water facilities, lightening  the age-old burdens of the women. In addition, Eco Himal has promoted Nepal’s first non-commercial FM radio station Radio Sagarmatha; it has supported the training of young women as trekking guides ... to mention only some of the activities of a quarter-century of active involvement focused on sustainable development in the Himalayas.

Prof. Luger continues: ‘Yes, with relatively modest financial means, we’ve managed to accomplish a lot. Our village partners are high-altitude subsistence farmers, barely eking out a living. The point isn’t funding as such, but to foster the know-how and longer-term involvement needed for them to be able to lead decent lives in a rapidly changing world. These people are strong, highly motivated and ready to take responsibility for their own futures.’

Shoulder-to-shoulder with the local people

All Eco Himal projects build on local engagement and participation. As Prof. Luger points out: ‘The farmers and villagers of the high Himalayan valleys need outside support, but they themselves are the bearers of the projects, which are formulated on the basis of their own expressed needs – especially those of the women. Precisely because everyday life is so hard, they are highly motivated for change!’

Over the years, Eco Himal has been active in many areas of the Himalayas/Hindu Kush – small hospitals and local schools in Tibet; schools in Afghanistan; and in northern Pakistan a forestry and agricultural project, later followed by post-earthquake relief work.

In Nepal, basic needs projects (WASH) have been central, accompanied by a focus on agriculture, sustainable tourism, and cultural involvement. The Garden of Dreams has been transformed from an overgrown wilderness into a peaceful oasis, in the heart of Kathmandu. A UNESCO World Heritage partnership between Salzburg and Lalitpur/Patan has ensured the preservation of the ancient cultural heritage. And, since the end of hostilities in 2006, Eco Himal has supported the schooling of 30 war orphans and street children, to give them the chance of a better future.

After the horrendous earthquakes of 2015, Eco Himal has been deeply involved in the reconstruction and restoration of basic infrastructure. Young Nepalis have received practical training as masons, carpenters and plumbers.  Schools have been rebuilt, under the guiding motto: Schooling is the way out of poverty.

Investing in the future

Eco Himal will focus on the health and education sectors, and on renewable energy and sustainable agriculture and forestry. Prof. Luger concludes: ‘The linkage between village communities and their development as strong partners for sustainability is the key to all this. Through corporate responsibility projects involving European companies and enterprises, economic collaboration as well as cultural exchange can serve as the bridge between the Alps and the Himalayas.’

Development Cooperation Alps-Himalaya

Activity report from 2002 to 2012 by EcoHimal

Since 20 years EcoHimal is working in the countries of the Himalaya, mainly in Nepal. The report gives an overview about project activities.

For any questions contact us on: office@ecohimal.org

As member of EcoHimal you get our Alpine Himalayan Mailrunner twice a year. The mailrunner informs you about our projects and the situation in Nepal.

You can download the latest Mailrunners here!


Here you find some helpfull links for the planning of your journey to Nepal. 


EcoHimal Austria Gesellschaft für Zusammenarbeit Alpen-Himalaya
Hofhaymer Allee 11/17
5020 Salzburg
E-Mail: office@ecohimal.org
T: +43 662 829492
ZVR Zahl: 886266575

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