Sonal Asgotraa is the Project Manager of GHE’s Astronomy for Livelihood Initiative called Astrostays (www.astrostays.com)
Over the last 3 years, Sonal has been working to create a unique community centric Astro-tourism model that leverages Astronomy for creating sustainable Socio- economic Development opportunities for rural communities called Astro-Stays. The initiative merges Astronomy and community development initiatives to promote astro-tourism as a more sustainable form of travel that brings the economic benefits of tourism to remote areas, away from built up tourist regions – transforming village homestays into Cultural and Astronomy Hubs and economically empowering rural communities.
Trained on basics of astronomy and know-how of operating telescopes, the local homestay owners (mostly women) conduct night sky gazing sessions for the incoming tourists, creating a new channel of revenue generation for the communities, that has eventually led to increase in stimulus to local economy, reducing local youth migration and preservation of age-old cultural Himalayan heritage.
Impact: Till date, 35 local women have been trained across 6 Astro-stays in the high-altitude Himalayan desert of Ladakh, generating an income of around $3200 (USD) for the local communities.