Are you going trekking this year? Read this page before you go to make sure your adventure of a lifetime is enjoyed by everyone, including your porters.
In mountain regions all over the world, thousands of men and women and in some desperate cases, even children, are working as trekking porters. They carry extraordinary loads up and down mountain trails, often very ill equipped with insufficient clothing or footwear for just a very small wage.
Fact. More porters suffer from accidents and altitude sickness than western trekkers. Fact. Every year porters die unnecessarily on the job. Fact. Many are affected so badly by frost bite or snow blindness that they are unable to work again and unable to support their families.
Whether its Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Peru or any other trekking destination, the problems faced by trekking porters share are the same:
- Inadequate wages
- Being forced to carry excessive loads
- A lack of appropriate clothing and footwear
- A lack of appropriate safety equipment such as sunglasses
- A lack of appropriate food
- A lack of overnight shelter
- A lack of medical care
- A lack of insurance
Porters are often considered among the lowest social positions within the community and too frequently are exploited by their employers who pay poor wages and do nothing to improve the working conditions.
So is the answer to avoid using porters on your trek? No. If you act responsibly and choose an ethical company, employing porters is a very good way to assist some of the world’s poorest communities and create jobs for meagre subsistence farmers to supplement their income so the more porters you can employ the better!
Despite their hard graft, you’ll discover that the grace and enthusiasm of your porters will add a wonderful dimension to your trek.
Questions to ask trekking companies:
- Does the company you are thinking of trekking with follow IPPG’s five guidelines on porter safety?
- What is their policy on equipment and health care for porters?
- What do they do to ensure the trekking staff is properly trained to look after porters’ welfare?
- What is their policy on training and monitoring porter care by its ground operator in Nepal?
- Do they ask about treatment of porters in their post trek questionnaire to clients?