Common citizens want to alleviate the dire financial situation faced by farmers in India. They also want to move to organic foods and healthy eating, for which organic farming needs to become more feasible for farmers. To contribute positively to both causes, here is what citizens can do – simply take a holiday, says Pandurang Taware. Pandurang is the founder of the agri-tourism concept in India. He spoke at the TEDxGIM conference in July 2015, which was an independently organised TED event by Goa Institute of Management (GIM). Pandurang founded the Agri-Tourism Development Corporation, which in 2010 became ATDC Pvt. Ltd, in order to promote and facilitate agricultural tourism in Maharashtra. “I believe that agri-tourism can be an important driver in poverty alleviation through the creation of sustainable livelihood and diversification of rural economies,” said Pandurang in a report in The Navhind Times.
Agri-tourism is a business conducted by a farmer for the enjoyment or education of the public, to promote the products of the farm and generate additional farm income. It provides rural experiences to urban residents and economic alternatives to farmers. Agri-tourism includes activities such as farm tours, roadside stands, bed and breakfast, and cattle drives. It can provide economically feasible ways to care for natural habitats, natural scenic areas, natural resources, and special places.
Pandurang added, “However, my vision is not purely business focused. I hope that agri-tourism can revive appreciation and awareness of the importance of agricultural tradition in the Indian society, which has nearly disappeared in the past decades.” The socio-economic impacts of the programme are diverse, right from generating additional income for farmers co-operating with agri-tourism to generating side income for community members who are not partners of agri-tourism while simultaneously giving urban Indians the chance to communicate with rural people about their daily life challenges. There is also increasing awareness about local agricultural produce, which leads to direct sale from farmer to urban households. And, mostly importantly, there is an appreciation for agriculture and therefore for the importance of maintaining agricultural lands.
The lives of farmers have changed considerably with the agri-tourism destination venture. Most of those involved in agri-tourism have become entrepreneurs, which, in turn has helped the sale of agro-tourism products. They have learned soft skills to handle customer service and to market their product and this has helped raise their self-esteem. It has also had a positive effect among the community in drought prone areas where suicide cases were increasing.”
Pandurang pointed out, “There is tremendous scope for organic farming in agriculture tourism, especially in Goa where international tourists come in large numbers. Organic farms can be started at places like Govind Moreshwar Parsekar in Mandrem, Bhate Farm, near Saptakoteshwar Temple in Bicholim, Mandovi Farms, Satari to name a few, among others.”
ATDC Pvt. Ltd. is a recipient of the gold, World Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Poverty Reduction, 2015, given by World Travel Market (WTM).