Agri Tourism: Cultural Preservation

2012 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards Winner: Best in Cultural Preservation

Agri Tourism based in rural Maharashtrian countryside in central India, is an innovative scheme to invite city-slickers to get back to their rural farming roots. In an area where youngsters are eager to flee a declining farming industry for quick cash in neighbouring urban areas, Agri Tourism is successfully reversing this trend and giving new hope to rural populations.

This dynamic business is attracting tourist from far and wide wanting to experience agriculture heritage. Generating interest, income and demand for this important part of India’s culture, Agri Tourism is witnessing local farmers diversifying to reap the benefits of both agriculture and tourism.

Why Wild Asia loved this Winner

Our favourite concept!

Sustainable Livelihoods - Prior to the introduction of Agri Tourism holidays, rain water thirsty Maharashtra was having some serious challenges seeing a future in farming. Yet, by diversifying farms for tourism activities, farmers have experienced a 25% growth in business. This money is helping to change up farming habits to a more sustainable way and it’s attracting more people back to their cultural heritage, especially younger generations. To date, Agri Tourism has trained over 1000 farmers in tourism capacity building and 350 farms have diversified, reaping the benefits of a newly found sustainable income.

  • Local Employment – 100% local staff from the immediate village is preventing urban migration and an aging rural population. They also have initiatives for youths, women empowerment and all staff are paid the legal minimum wage or above
  • Cultural Exchange - In an area that historically had no tourism whatsoever, locals are now benefiting from learning from other cultures as well as showcasing their own to new found friends (such as their annual Kite Festival which sees over 500 attendees, traditional bullock cart rides or evenings in traditional dress). Not only is the centre a cross cultural learning experience for foreigners, but Indian guests are satisfied by learning about their own ancestral heritage and culture
  • Community Development - 15% annual profits go to the primary school next door, this money is spent on improving the level of education and for clean drinking water
  • Water – Neighbouring wealthy areas have benefited from the introduction of canal systems, this area would not have been eligible given its sparse population, but the government has expressed interest now there is tourism money coming in and are exploring bringing new canal systems to the village in next 5 years. This will be hugely beneficial to villagers who are losing their crops due to change in climate (very dry)

What did the Judges have to say?

“This is a fantastic project – really impressed”

“A very useful model for community-based
tourism elsewhere in India and throughout Asia Pacific”

“A complete all-rounder”

Let’s Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 1 of 3)

Our ‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Let’s Unravel Travel series of dispatches style articles. The aim of this exciting new series is to raise awareness about tourism from the field; looking at inspiring grassroots initiatives and localised issues that need addressing. We’re kicking off our articles with experiences from India.

Experiences from India

by Amy McLoughlin

Let me introduce myself. I am Amy and started with Wild Asia in May 2012 to help with the coordination of the Responsible Tourism Awards. I’m a young sustainable tourism professional who has worked for the past few years in the UK as a Sustainable Tourism Adviser in a national park, following a degree in related studies. I joined Wild Asia after eight months travelling and volunteering through Asia. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bore you with my soul searching mission, but I will excite you with my sustainability searching mission!

I have spent most of the past eight months in India. Along my way I have seen some things that have shocked me, inspired me, angered me or moved me. I’d like to share some of these with you.

Praise for the goodies!

Agri Tourism India (Maharashtra, India)

An initiative developed to encourage city slickers to ‘get back to their farming roots’ on peaceful holidays in the beautiful Maharashtrian countryside. It has gone far beyond. It remains a popular get away for Mumbai and Pune residents, but it’s doing it in a way that is wonderfully responsible. Their training centre hosts a range of capacity building courses for local farmers and to date has trained in excess of 500 people. Farmers have been learning about how to diversify their farms into homestays, creating additional sustainable income as well as providing an opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage. The agricultural centre hosts a variety of cultural evenings and events for guests, including traditional bullock cart ride and opportunity to dress in local costume (that’s me in the middle!). As a result, farmers have experienced a 25% economic growth. The scheme is great news for employing woman’s cooperatives and advocating youth employment in an area when many young people flee their rural roots. More information (link to their website).

  • Tourism for Tomorrow 2011 Finalist Community Benefit
  • Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 Winner Contribution to Conserving Cultural Heritage
Some things that got me worried…

Waste management in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (India)

The quintessential tropical paradise. Beautiful beaches, swaying palms, bath like sea, pirate movie film set villages…and a shed load of rubbish. I made the calculated decision to visit the tourist hub of Havelock after learning how tourism in these islands has had a negative impact on tribal communities. I was anxious of tourist numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a stretched infrastructure, it was good. I was not expecting to wade through sanitary towels and clamber over mountains of glass bottles to get to the beach. Nothing is being done to manage this, gulp.

Next up…

Our next issue will highlight more positive and negative examples from India.

[message type="simple"]The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Operators can play their part by educating guests. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

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(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except Havelock litter image: credit Brombags1 on Flickr.com)