The Pioneer Of Agri-Tourism

https://blog.deasra.in/the-pioneer-of-agri-tourism/

Agritourism has challenged the common notion that tourism involves going to beaches, trekking through the mountains, going for walks at hill stations or going to snow-clad regions and playing in the snow. Agritourism is a term that was coined by combining the two words, ‘Agriculture’ and ‘Tourism’. We realised the importance of Agritourism after talking with Mr. Pandurang Taware.

Mr. Pandurang Taware was born and brought up in a village called Sangavi in the Baramati district of Maharashtra. He completed his education in an english-medium school. His father wanted his son to become a farmer like him, but Mr. Pandurang wanted to study further. He came to Pune to pursue a degree in Computer Science from Wadia College, since there was no scope of acquiring higher education in his village. This was in the 1990s, when Computer Science didn’t hold much importance. He worked for many companies like Eureka Forbes Sales, Club Mahindra Holidays, Sterling Resorts, etc. for 17 years. Being a farmer’s son, he wanted to contribute something towards the agricultural field, even after getting a good work experience. And so, he started studying about agriculture for the farmers and the conservation of farming. He tried out new and different concepts to bring this field into the limelight and to help as many farmers as possible. When Mr. Pandurang thought about the idea of Agritourism, he started researching about it further. He decided to do a market survey to understand the scope of this field. He asked general and basic questions to people from various fields like teachers, professors, bank employees, government officials, managers of different organisations and associations etc. Some of the questions were,- “Do you have any relatives who reside in a village?”, “Do you meet them during any functions or festive seasons?”, “Have you ever worked in a farm?”, “Have you ever experienced swimming in a well?”, “How much can you spend for such an activity?”, “How far are you willing to travel for such an activity?” etc. The results of the survey declared that around 43% of citizens didn’t have many relatives residing in a village. A probable rise in this percentage can be attributed to the rapid growth of urbanisation in the year 2019. Mr. Pandurang could understand the scope of Agritourism through this survey. He decided on working towards promoting the business of farming after seeing the results of the survey. He started an Agritourism center on a 30-acre land in a village called ‘Palshi’ on an experimental basis. Tourists from more than 28 different countries have visited this center till this day. He named his company as ‘Agri Tourism Development Company’. He has started Agritourism centers for farmers under this company and has given guidance wherever needed. There were hardly 1 or 2 Agritourism centers in 2004; but now, more than 600 centers have opened up all over Maharashtra as of April 2019. Nearly 21 lakh tourists have visited these centers in the past 3 years. The farmers have made more than ₹50 crore through this activity. After seeing its massive success in Maharashtra, the idea of Agritourism has started to spread all over India. The local governments of Punjab, Sikkim and Karnataka have issued new travel policies that are favorable to Agritourism. The Central Government has started encouraging the growth of this field all over India. The Government officials took efforts to boost the growth of Agritourism in 2016. For example, it is now compulsory to take the students from 5th to 10th standards on a field trip to the farm so that the students can experience and learn all about the rural lifestyle and culture. It is permissible to construct up to 8 rooms for Agritourism, under the Government rules and regulations. Taking NA permission for such type of construction is not mandatory.

Mr. Pandurang Taware helped us understand the benefits of the concept of Agritourism. In today’s busy lifestyle, a variety of means of entertainment have emerged that help people relax. The use of these means has increased tremendously in cities especially. But, this was not the case 15 years ago. Mr. Taware was able to envision the future and apply his concept 15 years ago. Before starting any business, an entrepreneur must know the long lasting impacts that the business might have on the society. Today, the people show their appreciation for Agritourism wholeheartedly. This activity has not only benefited the families of the farmers financially, but it has also helped improve their social standing as well. One Agritourism center can create an entire network of businesses in the entire village. For example, if a family decides to start Agritourism on their farm, they will naturally start keeping themselves and their house and farm clean. Special attention would be given to the cleanliness and the hygiene of the village due to the frequent visits of the tourists to the center. Thus, this activity of Agritourism helps in the local cleanliness drive as well. This activity would become a means of getting regular livelihood for the farmer. This activity provides a platform for the farmers of the village to sell their produce to these tourists as well. This in turn benefits the small women-led savings groups of the village. The demand for handmade products made by the local artisans of the village goes up too. Thus, an entire village is benefited through Agritourism.

On a global scale, the idea of ‘Agritourism’ is said to have originated from Italy. In November 2018, the world’s first congress on Agritourism was organized in Bolzano, Italy. Mr. Pandurang Taware got the opportunity to be the keynote speaker on that occasion and represent India on a global platform. The main points of his keynote speech were- The concept of Agritourism in India, the policies made for this tourism, its goals and envisioned future. A few farmers from Maharashtra and Punjab and a few Government officials formed the 18 member team from India. They successfully put the Indian Agritourism and rural life on a global platform. The work of the farmers got a boost due to this and they were able to widen their vision about the future. The farmers were able to understand the global scale of farming due to their experience in Italy.

The younger generation of the farmers is not interested in farming at all. They start searching for jobs immediately after completing their higher education. Ultimately, they leave their villages due to a lack of job opportunities and migrate towards the bigger cities. Agriculture depends on three main factors- the rains, the seasonal crops  and the value of the produce in the market. The state of Maharashtra has been experiencing untimely and inconsistent rain for the last 7-8 years. In addition to that, the good produce does not get a fair price in the market due to its abundant availability. This eventually leads to non-sustainable employment, inefficient income and negligible profit. This is one of the reasons why the new generation does not like the idea of looking after farms anymore. This field requires a different mindset and respect for the work, which is not seen often these days. Thus, the younger generation has started to migrate towards cities. Agritourism is a great way to generate an interest in agriculture and farming in the minds of this young generation once again. Mr. Pandurang Taware thinks that the occupation of farming would not last much longer without a steady, sustainable income. The new generation would definitely stay back in the villages and help with farming if a steady income is gained through Agritourism.

Tourists visit the Agritourism centers for about 110-120 days of a year. Thus, the farmers are able to get a steady, regular income through it. Let us try to visualize the financial benefits of Agri-tourism. Let us assume that a farmer owns about 5 acres of sugarcane farm. This farm has an excellent supply of water. In this situation, the farmer gets a profit of about 1.5 lakh rupees every 18 months through these 5 acres of farmland. But, the farmer opens up one acre of his farmland up for Agri-tourism. Let’s assume that he gets about 10 tourists everyday, for 120 days. He will then charge about 1000 rupees per tourist and get a profit of 12 lakh rupees. He will end up with a profit up to 5 lakh rupees after deducting the incurred costs. The profit that a farmer gets through Agri-tourism has the potential of setting him on the path of progress. The farmer need not open his entire farm for it.

Mr. Taware tells the people who are new to this business, that they can grow the crops that they want in the remaining four acres of land, if they set about one acre of land aside for Agri-tourism. Certain basic necessities need to be arranged for the tourists if one decides to set an acre of land aside for Agritourism. There is no need to invest a lot of money while preparing for the different services, as one can use the things already available on the farm to assemble some basic services. One needs to develop an attractive entrance gate, a small hall to welcome the tourists, a small room to organise things for the tourists, bathrooms, toilets, a kitchen and a dining hall for the tourists. Also, benches for the tourists to rest on while touring the farm are required. One can arrange for tractors, bullock carts and/or horse rides for tourists to enjoy as well. The tourists can get engrossed in the farm, if the crops planted in the remaining four acres of land are in full bloom. A farmer can easily arrange for these things without investing a lot of money in Agritourism. Farmers can organise for different demonstrations like generation of electricity from wind energy, solar power, etc. to entertain and educate the tourists. The farm and the Agritourism center can get benefited from the electricity generated through these projects as well. The tourists become happy if they get to see projects like rainwater harvesting, small scale biogas production unit, different methods of irrigation, uses of different types of soil etc. A farmer can show and demonstrate things that people do not usually get to see in the urban cities. The tourists can get novel experiences such as getting to animal sheds, tasting fresh milk, poultry farming, having fresh sugarcane juice etc. The farmer can arrange a one day tour of the farm, starting by welcoming the tourists in the traditional way, providing breakfast, then giving a tour of the farm, a lunch prepared in the traditional rural way, presenting a show to entertain them, and then bidding goodbye to the tourists.

The Government is trying to encourage this type of tourism after seeing a rise in its popularity. Agritourism is not limited to tourists visits only. Environment and the culture of the rural areas is preserved through this activity as well. This activity leads to an increase in the rate of employment, which leads to financial stability.  The people from rural areas get better means of transportation, the standard of living increases, and the rural areas are able to connect with the urban regions better through Agritourism. Agritourism supports the growth and development of the villagers and the villages they reside in.

Mr. Pandurang Taware tells the new entrepreneurs that they can succeed in their business if they study about the intricacies of their field, carry out a detailed research on their ideas and concepts and work hard. A person should dedicate himself/herself to the business without being fickle about their decisions. One need not have a specific education or degree to start this business of Agritourism. S/he can start their own business of Agritourism if s/he has basic knowledge about farming, land, crops, cropping patterns etc. Land, crops and soil are the capital of farming. Roadways, electric supply and water are equally important to agriculture. One should not buy a farmland and start their own Agritourism center without a prior background in farming. However, a local farmer or a person with ancestral farming background can start this business for his/her livelihood.

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