Back to the roots...
Agricultural Tourism or Agri-Tourism is the concept of visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness operations for a holiday. It can be for sheer enjoyment, or education, or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operations. It gives a taste of rural lifestyle and information about the basics of agriculture.
Preet: Hi Sumit! How are your exams going?
Sumit: Quite well. I’m just waiting for them to get over. My father’s taking us for a trip to Malegaon Village, Baramati in Maharashtra.
Preet: You are going to a village!!! What will you do there?
Sumit: Duh! We’ll get a taste of rural India… beyond books. All of us read about villages, farmers, agricultural activities, and so on. But, how many of us can actually experience these things? Oh! This Agri-Tourism trip is going to be a lot of fun. Well, I’m sure you don’t know what that is… So, let me explain.
Tourism is one of the most dynamic sectors in India. And agriculture forms the backbone of the country’s economy. So, why not mix the two and reap the benefits?
Both domestic and international travellers are seeking rural experiences. What can be better than Agri-tourism to know more about the cultural and regional aspects of India? Farmers will get additional income, and will also tap their lands’ full potential. This will, in turn, add to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is a smallscale business, and requires only a small farm crew in order to be successful. So, a win-win situation for everyone.
“This initiative not only helps farmers, but also promotes rural artisans and generates indirect employment”, says P B Patil, Consultant – Special Projects, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). “With Agri- Tourism, farmers can record 25 per cent increase in their annual income”, says Pandurange Taware, Director – Sales and Marketing, Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC).
What can you do?
Though Agri-Tourism appeals to each and everyone, students are the main targets. There are special packages for them, which gives them a first-hand experience of rural life, which they would have otherwise learnt about only through textbooks. ATDC organises special camps for children coinciding with their vacation, wherein children are educated on the various aspects of rural-life like milking cows, making silk, jaggery, and so on. They are also taught about the working of gram panchayats. They can play local games such as gilli danda, gotya and bhavra. Tourists can also visit dairy farms, milk collection centres, and emu and goat farms. Other interesting things that are offered include bullock cart and horse-rides, fishing, folk music or dance performances.
So, how far has it reached in India?
According to an estimate agri- and rural tourism is worth Rs 4,300 crore in the country. Maharashtra has taken the lead for initiating Agri-Tourism, while other states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are following the footsteps. The pilot project of MTDC started in Malegoan village, Baramati in 2005. In 2007, it catered to 13,200 tourists, with a record turnover of Rs 30 lakh.
MTDC has identified 40 locations in the state to further develop Agri-Tourism. One of them is Vidharbha region, which is marred by rampant cases of farmer suicides. Agri-Tourism may boost the morale of the farmers to some extent. And how far can it go?
Indian tourist arrivals are growing at around 8-10 per cent every year. Thus, there is a huge demand and market to be tapped. Agri- Tourism can attract people from all walks of life – from families to students in schools and colleges to employees to international tourists.
The tourism industry can join hands with panchayats to develop required infrastructure, accommoda - tion facilities, transportation and marketing activities in pushing Agri- Tourism. All it needs is right marketing strategies and help from the government and private bodies.
What tourist should not expect is luxury, such as air-conditioner and swimming pool. these would just ruin the rural experience. won’t they?