Helena Norberg-Hodge / Ladakh Ecological Development Group

(1986, India)

...for preserving the traditional culture and values of Ladakh against the onslaught of tourism and development.


Ladakh, or 'Little Tibet', is one of the last remaining traditional cultures on earth. For over a thousand years the Ladakhi people prospered, creating a rich, harmonious and sustainable culture from the sparse resources of their region. In 1975, traditional self-reliance and cultural pride were suddenly replaced by feelings of inferiority, dissatisfaction and competition when the area was opened to 'development', including tourism, media and advertisement, which brought with them highly idealised impressions of life in the West. Outside economic pressures began undermining the local economy, and ills that were previously unknown - pollution, crime, unemployment, family breakdown, rapid urbanisation and ethnic conflict - began to take hold.

Contact Details

Ladakh Ecological Development Group
Karzoo 194101
Leh - Ladakh
Jammu & Kashmir State
INDIA Helena Norberg Hodge
Local Futures/International Society for Ecology & Culture
2017 Mission Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco
94110 California

Website of LEDeG

Website of ISEC


Helena Norberg-Hodge founded the Ladakh Project in 1978 as a way of countering these destructive trends. As an alternative to conventional development, the project has encouraged a path based on Ladakh's own values and its human-scale economy. Much of this work has involved 'counter-development', which involves informing people about the realities of Western consumer culture while working to restore respect for the local culture.

The Ladakh Project has now grown into the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), which works internationally, in both the North and South to encourage more decentralized land-based ways of living. Straddling theory and action, ISEC seeks to alert people to the threat economic globalisation poses to communities, democracy and the natural world, while also actively promoting economic localisation through international campaigns and grassroots initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, local currencies and eco-villages. ISEC's written and video materials, including Ancient Futures and The Future of Progress, have been translated into over 25 languages, demonstrating that this message strikes a chord with people around the world. ISEC also recently produced The Economics of Happiness, a feature documentary that has been screened around the world and has met with both popular and critical acclaim. The Economics of Happiness project now also includes a series of annual conferences on globalisation and localisation issues.

With the Ladakh Project's active participation, the indigenous Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) was founded in 1983 with the goal of ensuring that the Ladakhis themselves would be able to shape their future, one built on Ladakh's own resources and ancient foundations. LEDeG has promoted local manufacturing technologies that use solar energy for space heating, cooking, water heating, crop drying and greenhouses, and small-scale water power for grinding grain, producing electricity and pumping water. Today, one or more of these technologies can be found in virtually every Ladakhi village.

Now an influential NGO, the respect that LEDeG is accorded was demonstrated when its two co-directors were elected to high positions in Ladakh's new, semi-autonomous government.

Important developments for LEDeG in the new millennium include the large-scale dissemination of new technologies like parabolic dish cookers and photovoltaics, the building-up of a fund to become more independent from donors and the introduction of ecotourism and biodiversity programmes.

Since founding the Ladakh Project and LEDeG, Helena Norberg-Hodge has become known as a pioneer of localisation, and as one of the world’s foremost experts on the impacts of economic globalisation on cultures and our psychological wellbeing.  She gives numerous lectures each year and regularly contributes to publications, ranging from books and academic journals to popular alternative magazines and films (most recently: The Economics of Happiness). In 2012, Helena Norberg-Hodge was named winner of the 2012 Goi Peace Award.

(Last update: February 2013)


Acceptance Speech by Tsewang Rigzin

December 8th, 1986

"Tashi Delegs,"

I, on behalf of the members of The Ladakh Ecological Development Group, offer my thanks to the chairman of The Right Livelihood Foundation for this award to our group.

Our group was founded in Ladakh by Miss Helena Norberg-Hodge. During this short period of time we could do a little service to our people with the support of our wellwishers throughout the world.
The main aims and objectives of the group are as follows:

  1. To protect the precious traditional culture of Ladakh, which has been flourishing for centuries. 

  1. To demonstrate ways and means under which ecological balance can be maintained in the region. 

  1. To try for sustainable and long lasting development and maintaining tolerance among different faiths of the region.

To achieve the above aims and objects the group has started some activities such as publishing booklets and newsletters, arrangements of symposiums and seminars to educate the people, demonstration of solar ovens, green houses, windmills etc.

It will however be difficult to get the people to follow the instructions of the group unless and until the members themselves follow practically. Our members are trying whole heartedly to become practical in respect of our aims and objects.

For instance I am a farmer, mostly cultivating vegetables. I have started organic farming since the last 3 years. I have introduced new different varieties of vegetables and herbs, which can grow successfully in Ladakh during summer and in green houses in winter.

The group hopes that the little services rendered by us will help Ladakhi people in particular and the world at large in getting peace and prosperity.


Mohammad Hasnain from LEDeG on Democracy Now!


FAQ about LEDeG

asked in 2005
answered by Sonam Dawa, former Director of LEDeG

1. How is the situation of the Ladakhis today?

  • Overall economy has improved.  But there is greater disparity and inequity; rich becoming richer. The gap has increased. Life has become more competitive.
  • Much greater awareness about environment, importance of ancient culture and development issues
  • Dependency particularly on Government (...) has increased
  • Negative impacts of tourism have become visible by now

2. What are the main failings of the Western model of development that you see in Ladakh?

  • Increased consumerism
  • For an average Ladakhi, tourists are the role models from the West. Obviously not the best in any circumstances. The Ladakhis do not see the culture of hard work, punctuality and such qualities of people in the West.

 3. Ancient traditions and new technologies - who decides what is good and what is bad and what should be adopted?

The average Ladakhi takes the final decision. LEDEG of course creates the necessary awareness through its various programmes like seminars, meetings, campaigns etc.

4. What are your main programmes?

  • Promotion of a sustainable development model for the area
  • Demonstrate appropriate technologies/systems, which the villagers can replicate
  • Increase income generation capacities + provide basic facilities in villages through reducing migration to urban cities

5. Do you think you have achieved success in your mission?

Yes, substantially, but the pressure for so called development continues unabated. 

6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

It is over 19 years since LEDEG got the award in 1986. It is known as an awardee of the prestigious award. Our mission/vision to promote ecologically and socially sustainable development, which harmonises with and builds upon traditional Ladakhi culture, continues.


Publications and films by Helena Norberg-Hodge

The Economics of Happiness, film produced and co-directed by Helena Norberg-Hodge, 2011.

Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World, 2009.

Ancient Futures film, and Paradise with Side Effects, film

A Tale of Two Cities: Beijing and Detroit, Yes! Magazine, January 2012.

Transforming the Economy: Linking Hands Across the Social and Environmental Divide, December 2010.

Globalisation and Terror, Helena Norberg Hodge.The Ecologist, December 2001/January 2002. Download (pdf)

The Social Costs of Globalisation. The Johannesburg Ecologist 2002. Download (pdf)

Think Globally... Eat Locally. The Ecologist, September 2002. Download (pdf)

Globalisation versus communityDownload (pdf)

Shifting Direction: From Global Dependance to Local InterdependenceDownload (pdf)

Publications by LEDeG

A study on Micro Hydro Units in Ladakh, prepared by LEDeG, published by Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehradun 2007.

Biodiversity of Ladakh - strategy & action plan. Sonam Dawa, Blaise Humbert-Droz (eds.), Sampart, New Delhi 2004.

English-Ladakhi Dictionary, prepared by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Tashi Rabgais, published by LEDeG 1991.

2008 Update Report by LEDeG. Learn more about LEDeG's recent progress and development.


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