Subini Nair, an agri-engineering graduate and management consultant based in Kozhikode, Kerala, made a visit to the Bamboo Village in Wayanad. Inspired by what she experienced, she has joined the ethical-tourism NGO behind the homestay initiative. Here is her story…
My dream about India was more filled with the noisy crowded streets, festivals, wedding bands, political party processions blocking traffic, cows though praised to be holy found wandering around the upper class garbage heaps… But quite forgotten were those images seen in my childhood of the picturesque hilly landscapes and widespread green paddy fields.
Coming up the narrow winding rugged roads up the Western Ghats as the Kerala Transport Bus grinded its engine, I was finally able to breathe the crisp and clean mountain air. Had I been blindfolded, I still could have guessed that I am in Wayanad. 2100 meters high above the sea level, braced by mountains and blending beautifully with lush green tea and coffee plantations, lies this kingdom of greens. Plenty of palm trees (‘Kera ‘as in Malayalam- the language of the state) where in Kerala derives its name from, the unending rice fields and the undivided plantain gardens took away all my weary air of the long haul. The richness of resources, the refreshing climate, the biodiversity and the rural location makes Wayanad a perfect place to stay.
The name ‘Wayanad’ derives from ‘Wayal – Nadu’ (the land of paddy field in vernacular language) and reveals this piece of paradise’s agri-culture. But here I spotted trouble in this paradise. Though nature has blessed here with abundance, the markets declined the prices of every crop from these hills which led to the devastating and seemingly hopeless situation for the farmer families eventually leading to many suicides.
The Bamboo Village – tiding the other direction
As we say: nature always shows a new direction during each crisis , it seems to be proven true for Wayanad. To flow the other direction as the river Kabani does unlike other major rivers of the state that flows westwards in Kerala. The “Bamboo Village” in Thrikkaipetta, no longer s much for the crop markets to decide their fate, but with the support of the organizations Uravu and Kabani, today a village that was once never spotted on local tourist maps, has today become one the much cited locations on the global tourist map.
Community driven initiatives
It is purely the love and livelihood of the community that is bringing tourists to visit this place, and even refers their friends to this village. Today there are seven homestays, with the number gradually expanding as the community imbibes tourism as an additional income for their families. A set of principles evolved with the values of the community including the clear understanding of waste management and effective utilization of village resources, makes the Bamboo Village shower harmony and becomes an example to the neighboring villages. KABANI – the other direction, an organization focusing on sustainable socio-economic development of villages and the conservation of natural resources, continues to share this philosophy by promoting more villages at different locations across India , in tune with their vision of tourism always benefiting the local people, whilst neither diluting their culture nor harming the environment.
The meeting point of two worlds
The project caters for travellers who look for a very personal and ethical way to stay. The travellers are accommodated in family homes, sharing their hosts’ daily routine, getting to learn about their lives first hand, and tasting the wonderful flavours of home-cooked Keralite dishes. Your host welcomes you into their homes. Here I experienced a hospitality that does not begin and end merely with food being served to you and a room provided; but with families sharing their time and lives with you with no intrusion to privacies.
For the locals, this is a way to decentralize tourism and directly benefit from guests’ holiday budgets. As their homes can cater for a few additional guests, the initial investment is very low. In addition, a benefit sharing scheme makes sure that the entire village has its fair share: Half of the income from accommodation stays with the host families, another 30% goes to a village fund to provide professional trainings, support youth and the elderly, development of village level entrepreneurship, the annual jackfruit festival, and ongoing tourism development. The remaining 20% covers the expenses of the organization KABANI and its sustainable tourism activities.
A record of traditional knowledge – recapturing diluting culture
I met them! Faces old and wrinkled eyes keen, bright and sharp. Its anger and anguish, but hope. They see irresponsibility towards nature and living. The elders of this village were thrilled to talk about their times and traditions which offered me the best tips which I think can be solutions to our bigger problems.
Here they made a few tiny steps towards rebuilding a sustainable world from sustainable communities. Don’t you feel like being invited?! They would love to know you.