The Bold Voice of J&K

Agri-tourism; concept, scope, strategies

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Prof. Dr R. D Gupta

Inspite of attaining rapid growth in industrial and service sectors during the last few decades, agriculture still remains the main stay for Indian economy, contributing 14 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and accounting for 13 per cent of India’s export. Infact, agriculture is the predominant avocation, where about 70 per cent of the population depends up on directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood. It is worthwhile to mention that 110 million farmers are dwelling in 6.25 lakh villages producing more than 200 million tonnes of food grains, feeding the whole country. But now a days, the Indian agriculture is posing with a number of problems.
Such problems mainly consist of change of climate i.e; occurrence of droughts and floods owing to low and high rainfall conditions, melting of glaciers, resulting into increase in sea water level, unsustainable agricultural lands due to sub-division and frag mentation of the land holdings, high cost of inputs, poor returns etc. All these problems are forcing the farmers to sell their lands, seek wage employments and other alternative avenues to supplement family income. Moreover, some farmers are suffering badly from in debts and as such many of them are committing suicides. Above all the new generations are not interested to adopt agriculture as profession. However, the farmers who are holding back the small farms are recognizing the need and desire to diversify their farm products and adopt Agri-Tourism or Farm Tourism to supplement their agricultural income.
Concept of Agri-Tourism
Agri-Tourism is an emerging area, which refers to Agriculture and Tourism. Tourism may be defined as an instrument or an area for generating employment, alleviating poverty and developing humanity on sustainable basis. Agri-Tourism also ameliorates natural resources and contributes much to the rural area socially and economically. It offers an educational activity to sensitize general public, life of the farming community and also instills love of nature in them. Agri-Tourism becomes a great way for the people from the busy city life, which rejuvenates them by their participation in the physical activities on the farm and also fulfills their spiritual and social needs.
Principles of Agri-Tourism: Agri-Tourism is based upon three basic principles, which briefly stand described here as under:
Visual and Physical Appeal: Agri-Tourism should ensure to provide the tourists/visitors with something unique to see and feel physically. For instance food grain/oil seed crops and pulses grown at different stages, different kinds of vegetables, medicinal plants, fruit and forest trees, various kinds of flowers, domestic animals, birds as well as ponds and small lakes to attract young ones and children particularly. Apart from these, dresses, shawls, rural plays and games, can create enough interest and allure a number of tourists.
Scope for Participation and Involvement: Agri-Tourism should offer the tourists a lot of scope to participate in agricultural operations. Such agricultural operations may comprise of ploughing and harrowing in the fields, cart; buffalo and camel riding, cooking and craft making which they can do very well and enjoy.
Provision of Sales Counter: The concept of pick and choose of the produce which the farmers grow in their farms must be explored, where the tourists may harvest themselves the produce of their own choice on payments basis. The sale of products can range from food grains, pulses, oil seeds, fruits and vegetables. Processed foods like pickles, preserves, juices as well as local crafts etc.
A brief about Agri-Tourism abroad: For a large number of Indian farmers, Agri-Tourism is the only way to stay in agriculture through diversification as has been done in abroad. Diversification in agriculture is defined as diversion of siezable acreage from existing cropping system to some alternative crops or farm enterprises. Agriculture diversification assists the farmers to obtain food security through providing sufficient and healthy foods by or way of rearing livestock and poultry as well as growing of vegetables, pulses, medicinal plants and fruit trees. One diversified strategy in some US farmers is to explore, the cultivation of tourists besides crops. Referred to as “Agri-Tourism” in Italy “Sleeping in the Straw” in Switzerland “Farm stays” in New Zealand and “Farm Holidays”, in England, “Agri-tourism is well established throughout Europe and in many other countries. Agri-Tourism in a number of countries consists primarily of lodging and meals on the farm. Some farm families often remodel farm buildings into rustic lodging facilities and then operate them a type of bed and breakfast inn. Agri-Tourism as a possible diversification strategy in Switzerland does little more than clean out a barm and spread straw on the floor, up on which people roll out sleeping bags.
(To be continued)

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