The tourism industry in Nepal is believed to involve in excess of 20% of the country's total population and generates up to 80% of the country's GDP. For the most part, the vast majority of residents working for the tourism market are employed as porters. It is estimated that there are 46,000 long distance and 3,900 short distance child porters in Nepal. The majority of the child porters are between the ages of 10 and 17. The average age is 14 years for long distance porters and 15 years for short distance porters*. The average annual income for a Nepali citizen is approximately $1000-1200 (USD). For those in trekking, the working season lasts only four months, two in the late spring and two in the mid fall. For the other eight months, porters will often work by hauling supplies and freight, much like a pack animal would. Children whose families depend on them to earn income do not attend school and often spend the rest of their lives working as porters with no reasonable chance at advancement.
WWEP participates in many programs that benefit adult Nepali residents in the tourism industry who are well past normal school age.
*International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour
Trekking Guide Training
WWEP is committed to reaching child porters or individuals who are beyond school age and providing opportunities so that they may gain some advancement in their lives and careers. WWEP is partnering with Access-Himalaya, a family owned and Kathmandu based trekking company, to identify motivated porters who show interest and promise in advancing their careers into that of trekking guides or cooks. WWEP is one of the few organizations to provide this type of program.
Members of a trekking staff include guides, cooks, kitchen boys and porters. Most all express a strong interest to gain more experience and to advance to a higher position but often do have the resources themselves to gain those skills. Beginning courses in this program include Basic English and Guide Training. Advanced courses include Intermediate English and Wilderness First Aid.
Since 2014, four porters have progressed through this ambitious program, each demonstrating a deep commitment to furthering their career in the tourism industry. They have gone on to be hired in more senior positions in local trekking companies, a move which has helped both them and their families.
Porter and Guide English Language Courses
WWEP has also partnered with the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) to help fund English Language Courses for trekking personnel in an effort to help them progress into higher positions in the tourism industry. These courses are held twice a year in Kathmandu and help approximately 55-60 individuals each year achieve higher earning potential. KEEP also provides courses for porters in Environmental Advocacy and Cultural Awareness.