(The Gist of Kurukshetra) AGRI-TOURISM: POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES [APRIL-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) AGRI-TOURISM: POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES

[APRIL-2019]


AGRI-TOURISM: POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES

Introduction

  • Tourism is one of the most important revenue generating sectors of any country. It not only generates employment opportunities but also alleviates poverty and is a catalyst for rural development.
  • Rural tourism is a form of tourism that takes place in rural areas or settlements, providing employment and income to local population, and offering individualized holiday products to consumers. Agri-tourism is a form oftourism which involves agriculture based operation that brings visitors to the farms. Agri-tourism is where agriculture meets tourism and there are certain learning along with leisure and vacation. Agri- tourism is a leisure activity which also helps the person understand and appreciate the work done by the farmer.
    Agri-tourism is the latest concept in the Indian tourism industry. It gives the tourist an opportunity to experience the real, enchanting and authentic contact with the rural life, taste the local cuisine and get familiar with the various farming tasks during the visit. It provides a welcome escape from the daily hectic life in the peaceful rural environment. It gives the tourist a chance to relax and revitalize in pristine natural environment, surrounded by magnificent rural setting. The tourist gets the opportunity to see the real India and have the experience of the lifetime. Agri- tourism helps the child especially the urban child who normally lives in closed door school, watches television and mostly remains confined to the four walls of the home to understand and appreciate the traditional way of farming, milk production etc. Agriculture currently is under stress in terms of farmers' earnings and vagaries of nature. Through Agri-tourism the farmer benefits by increasing his earnings and this benefit could percolate to the village community The increased earnings is possible through the following methods:
  •  Expanding his farm operations so as to create an interest in the tourist.
  •  Using farm products in an innovative way. For instance, the farmer and / or the community can prepare fresh juice or snacks and sell them to the tourist. This strategy is seen in tourist places like in Mahabaleshwar where one of the leading juice manufacturers has created a see through glass" enclosure through which  the tourist is able to see how the various fruit juices are prepared. Outside this enclosure is another enclosed space where the organization sells fruit juices at a discounted price which is less than the price at which it is available in the urban areas. The Agri-tourism concept may possibly adopt a similar strategy.
  •  Developing new consumer niches by selling farm products directly. At several places from Nashik to Mumbai on way one can see farmers selling their products on the street. Perhaps this idea could be extended to farmer's market at the village level.
  •  Creating an improved farm living conditions, working areas and farm recruitment opportunities.
  •  Allowing tourists to either plough the fields or harvest products for a price. This would however depend on the farming cycle. Many of the children and parents, especially the urban family groups, have lost touch with their roots. They have seen villages in the cinema halls or in television. This may be a new method to attract the tourist to villages and give them a firsthand experience of farm activities.
  •  Generating additional revenue for local business and services from the tourist. The tourist would need several items which can be procured from the nearby towns and sold to them thus bringing in additional revenue to the local business.
  •  Upgrading and revitalizing community facilities for the residents and the visitors.
  •  Helping preserve local traditions, art forms and culture.
  •  Helping in diversifying and strengthening the rural economy through job creation.
  •  Empowering the women in the villages.
  •  Interacting with the urban tourist could also help in reducing the impact of the social ills like superstitions etc.

Agri-tourism can take several forms. Some of the products that can be offered are:

  •  Farmers' Market: Here the farm products can be purchased by the tourist at any time and in any quantity.
  •  Pick your own products: here the tourist can be encouraged to enter the farms and pick up the products directly e.g. pick up apples, strawberries, cabbages, grapes, pumpkins etc.This is widely practiced in several developed countries and also in a small way in certain tourist centers in India. Of course the products that can be picked would depend on the season. The quantity picked is then purchased by the tourist.

Key highlights

  •  Savour local flavor: typical village breakfast, lunch or dinner may be offered, for instance in Maharashtra "kandapoha” is offered for breakfast. Tourist may sit on the floor or on the 'charpoy' and have breakfast, lunch etc. This is something which many tourists enjoy. In South India, many tourists enjoy eating food on banana leaf especially in areas like Kerala, Tamil Nadu etc.
  •  Participation: Tourist may be requested to try lighting the 'choolah' and cook simple food. Many of the urban children and parents have only seen a choolah in the movies or in the books. This gives them a different and varied experience which is memorable and unforgettable. Cooking demonstration classes may be arranged, especially the traditional cuisine. This ideally would be a big hit amongst the urban women. Tourists can be encouraged to do cow milking, sheep shearing. Cow milking is something which is difficult but also interesting.
  •  Tourists can be encouraged to milk the cow and this can be purchased by the tourist at a price. Care however must be taken with regard to the safety angle.
  •  Experience Rural life: A conducted tour around the village may give insight about the rural life. In Mumbai, for example one of the world's largest slums is located at a place called Dharavi. Foreign tourists like visiting Dharavi just to understand life in a slum. The tourist is also asked to enter the house of select slum dwellers and partake some food etc. A similar concept can be developed in the villages also. The tourist may be offered something innovative to observe and enjoy like some aspects of the culture, dress, nearby forts, temples, bird watching etc. They may be offered to stay in a typical mud hut etc. Typically in some countries in the middle east and in some cities in Rajasthan tourists are encouraged to stay in tents.

Challenges

Implementation of Agri-tourism is not without some challenges. Some of them are listed below:

  •  Quality and complexity of services. Quality in service is the basic prerequisite for the survival of Agri-tourism. For this it is necessary to have a dedicated and motivated staff who are skilled in presentation of products in a professional way. Many urban tourists would love to enjoy the rustic flavor of rural life but with both private and public organizations in tandem. The farmer who is at the center of the Agri-tourism network of stakeholders is the key to success. Some of the stakeholders who are part of this

Agri-tourism network is given below:

  •  Farmer: The farmer is at the center of this network.
  •  Medical Facilities: Availability of medical facilities is extremely important,
  •  Transportation Network: Availability of transportation network is another important aspect. This includes good road facility, availability of a good network of road, railway etc.
  •  Safety Aspects: This is a critical prerequisite.
  •  Media and Communication: Media plays a very important part in promoting Agri- tourism. Care must be taken in promoting and communicating proper messages which would make Agri-tourism a grand success.
  •  Tourism organizations play the role of a catalyst in promoting Agri-tourism.
  •  Government and Hospitality industry also play a critical role in promoting Agri- tourism.
  •  In addition to the above there are several other stakeholders who are critical and important in the promotion of Agritourism.

Public Awareness:

  •  Today there is a general awareness regarding the quality of food that eats. There is a growing fascination towards
  •  Need for a strategy to create innovative products.
  •  Rural Tourism is one of the prominent forms of tourism and evolving as a primary
  •  Need for a well-defined strategy both at the form tourism sector. Now, it is being national as well as the state level. recognised as an important driver of rural economic growth and source of alternative Some such strategies in promoting Agri-tourism could be:
  •  Government supported policy structure. large scale employment for both skilled and unskilled labour force including youths There is a need for the government to develop and implement policy measures in residing in rural areas. Hence, the promotion of rural tourism can this regard.
  •  Education of the farmer and the farm play a major role in the creation of additional employment opportunities in owner for development of the rural areas.
     

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