What do porters want?

Porter’s Progress UK porters’ need research survey

In March 2012 Porters’ Progress UK (PPUK) started discussions with Jo Chaffer about carrying out a survey that would answer PPUK’s question; What support do porters want? For a charity whose remit is to support trekking porters in Nepal, this is the most important question we could ask them, and the answer would help direct PPUK’s support to the areas that the porters themselves identified. We have been very fortunate to work with Jo and her company Korakoru. She has a wealth of experience in Nepal, both as a trekking guide, and with a strong background in research with over 10 years’ experience in professional consultancy across a range of sectors.

With Jo’s expert guidance we agreed a set of questions and areas where the survey could be most effectively carried out. She then engaged an army of willing helpers to get the questionnaires up the trekking trails where the porters were working, and then back again. Over the autumn trekking season of 2012 Jo arranged for 220 Nepali language questionnaire forms, along with an introductory letter, to be distributed to porters in the two main trekking areas of Khumbu and the Annapurnas. These were followed up with other areas eg Mustang, Naar & Phu, Ghorka and Rowaling.

We are very grateful to a large number of people and companies who willingly gave their time and resources to make the research so successful – so in no particular order our huge thanks go to:

Roland Hunter, whose Mountain Company operates extensively in the Himalayan region, was incredibly helpful in offering insights and guidance both when PPUK was in the early stages of working through this idea, and later, when the survey was underway; Ade Summers, one of the Mountain Company’s trek leaders helped distributing forms.

Thamserku Trekking were invaluable in distributing and collecting the survey forms and we would like to thank Namgyal Sherpa, Rabi Gurung, Rajendra Tamang, Dorje Tamang, Pasang Temba Sherpa, Tshering and Phurba-Gyalzen Sherpa for their hard work.

KE Adventure who marshalled and briefed their trek leaders to help in the survey distribution and collection, in particular Tim Nicholl, Tom Richardson and Richard Haszko who fronted much of this.

We are indebted to Furba Sherpa and Lama Phuri Lama from Sherpa brothers who arranged the translation of the survey forms, helped with distribution and offered sound advice on how to manage to process.

Our thanks to Shona and Andy of Shonas who gave us some great small items of kit to offer to porters when they completed the forms and Kunjan Shresthha from Curves n Colors who created the brilliant awareness raising postcards that were distributed at the same time. Ian Henderson was also very helpful to Jo in distributing forms.

As well completing survey forms Jo held a discussion group with porters to help understand some of their issues in more detail. We are grateful to Raj Kumar, Padan, Dinesh, Khadke, Sher Bahadur, Mohan, Dawa, Dikpal, Kumar and Oyan Magar for attending.

Jo also arranged meetings and sought the advice from stakeholders connected with the trekking industry in Nepal. We are very grateful to the following people who gave their time to meet or discuss with Jo, so she was able to present a more rounded view of porter’s conditions: Bhakta Lama, President and Raghunath Adikari, vice President of the Nepal Porters’ Union; Prakash Adhikari, Chief Executive Himalayan Rescue; Ben Ayers, Director Dzi Foundation; Sherpa Pasang, General Secretary, and Kunga Sherpa and Kunga Sherpa, Directors Nepal Mountain Guide Association.

So what did we find out?

The 165 porters who responded and gave their views have been invaluable to PPUK in informing how we can target our support to help them. The survey highlighted a number of issues surrounding porters, their conditions and aspirations. As a UK base charity PPUK will not be able to meet all their needs, but the one area that stood out is the porters request for training. There were requests to be able to learn English (followed by French), be trained in Customer Service and to have a better understanding of the impact being at altitude can have on their health. We will be guided by this knowledge and look to focus our efforts in these areas of support wherever we can.