Meet Ishita: the Heart of Spiti Ecosphere

by Evelyn Murray, a retired OG Program Leader for India!

This article is part of the #MeetGroundswell series of posts where we share the stories of the people who make up the Operation Groundswell community. 

Meet Ishita Khanna. Ishita started the organization Ecosphere, a social enterprise and ecotourism organization that is focused on creating sustainable livelihoods that are linked to nature and culture conservation in Spiti. Spiti is ‘a world within a world’, relatively unknown, tucked away in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh.

Ishita Khanna is nothing short of a Superstar! She is a beloved part of the Spitian and OG community because of her unwavering dedication to change.

Ishita started the organization Ecosphere, a social enterprise and ecotourism organization that is focused on creating sustainable livelihoods that are linked to nature and culture conservation of the region. After finishing a Masters of Social Work and Development Studies, her love of mountains drew her attention to Spiti Valley. A once entirely remote region, Ishita witnessed the change that was happening to Spiti Valley as it started to open up to the rest of the world in the 1990’s. In order to conserve the culture and the environment of this region while still encouraging others to engage in the beauty of the land and culture in a respectful way, Ishitia recognized a need for sustainable livelihood opportunities. Since then they have countless projects on the run, from homestays run by the villages, to the cultivation and production of seabuckthorn (an indigenous plant) products.

What drives her is the connections she has made and seeing the difference that it can make in people’s lives.

While in Spiti, the OG team has primarily done work with their greenhouse project. This initiative started as a way to provide fresh fruit and veggies to the remote communities during the winter when they are cut off from the outside world.

During the pandemic, these greenhouses have become crucial. Everything was completely closed down, no fruits or veggies were coming into Spiti and villagers weren’t allowed to come to the main town of Kaza for food. Without the greenhouses there would be no way for them to access fresh food. If you check out their instagram (@spitiecosphere), you will see that some of the locals have been using this time to experiment with other things to grow in the greenhouse, including mushrooms!

shita is always thinking of how she can continue Ecospheres mission even further. Their future goals are to turn their focus towards healthcare. They recently partnered with the University of Utah’s dental students to support their local dentists.

We have so many awesome memories of our time with Ishita and Ecosphere. Some of Ishitas favourite moments with our teams are the many (many!) dance parties that we have had as a community at Taste of Spiti.

Fun facts about Ishita: she is a sucker for some potato and cheese Spitian momos and she loves the local dogs, they are her babies!

Join us on one of our upcoming India: Mind and Body programs! Learn more here.