By: Subhashini, Asstt. Editor-ICN
NEW DELHI: I would like to start this post by sharing one of my personal experiences with you. Once during Dussehra vacations (in October), my grandfather’s cousin invited us to visit his village, which is in the Kanpur dehat district. I was the least interested one for this trip, but since my cousins were also there, I thought this might turn out to be something fun. We reached there around two in the afternoon and the lunch was ready for us. When I was served pumpkin that grows in their lawn for lunch, I was very annoyed as I’m not fond of pumpkin. But having no other option, I had to eat it. Surprisingly, on having the first bite, I thought it was not pumpkin but something else because it was so delicious. I wondered why the veggies in our cities don’t taste the same.
Strolling through the farms and fields, having fresh corn whenever I wanted, exploring the village in a tractor, shopping from the local markets and a wide range of local handicrafts, the cool breeze that caressed us while we were sitting in the garden, the swings hanging from the neem trees, I really enjoyed all of this. But on the other hand, what I saw was that despite living in such a peaceful environment, the people there didn’t seem happy, specially the small farmers. One more thing, people were not enthusiastic and respectful towards their own occupation- farming. They didn’t consider farming as a high class and a respected occupation. Most of them seemed to be attracted towards the urban lifestyle. The living conditions and the financial status of the farmers did not seem pleasant.
Why are the farmers poor?
The above incident gives rise to several questions in my mind. Why are the farmers poor? Applying simple economics, what we know is that when there is an increase in the demand for a good, the price increases, which in turn also forces the wages to rise. But, the real situation in India conveys the picture that this basic principle is not being strictly followed.
Yes, the supply or the production has risen in accordance with the demand, but the increase real wages of the farmers has not kept up with the pace of prices. Also, the prices of all the farming essentials and tools, fertilizers etc have risen rapidly since the past two decades.
It is known that Agritourism can never be an integral part of the tourism sector because the tourism industry is mainly dependent on places of historic importance. As far as Agritourism is concerned, I feel that maybe we have no strong policy directed towards the growth and development of Agritourism. Whenever a tourist is visiting India or any other nation for that matter, is it not possible to offer him a tourist package which entails visits to our rural regions and a display of the specialities in our agricultural practices? From the point of view of a tourist, most of the urban cities have a similar kind of an environment; malls, theatres and shopping complexes, fine dine in restaurants, etc. The only thing that is different and exciting is the villages of that nation. So if the tourist package of this tourist incorporates visits to the nearby villages and rural areas where he/she could come face to face with the farmers, learn about their experiences, spend some time with them, have a taste of their local cuisines, wouldn’t all this be a way to popularise the rural lifestyle? The tourists would be sharing their experiences with their fellows, and that would make others familiar with the way of life of the farmers and the rural people.
How can Agritourism help the farmers?
Tourism can prove to be a great source of income for the farmers where they themselves get to interact with so many different people in their free time. The farmers would obviously feel contented and delighted that people from various regions and nations are taking interest in their lifestyle and this will also make them feel special about what they do.
Agritourism should be well-linked with practical agriculture education. People researching on tissue culture, students and teachers related with agricultural education and those who are aware of the positive impacts of Agritourism should spend some time with the farmers of our nation and broaden their horizon about Agritourism.
Asian countries have largely been influenced by the West, where the weekend enjoyment and fun is mostly about going to malls, watching movies and so on. If, instead of doing the same thing over and over again, they decide to visit some nearby village, this could be thought of as an initiative towards Agritourism, if we ponder in a broader perspective. The money that is usually squandered in the towns performing the very same activities again and again could be utilised in a direction where it could bring positive results. It could prove to be a unique shopping experience, where the tourists purchase their local handicrafts hence popularising the rural culture and art.
In the past 40-50 years even though the banks have extended their reach to the villages, in most of the nations including India, a majority of the farmers still need to take loans from local money lenders to practice farming. The crops that they grow putting in so much of hard work and strength does not pay them well enough. By the time the crop reaches the final purchaser, the prices have usually been increased manifold. The final customer is unaware of the price at which the farmer sells his yields. The middlemen are the ones who earn maximum profits through this process.
One of the notable benefits from the development of Agritourism would be that the consumer would become aware of the basic price of the crop and about its percentage increase in price by the time it reaches to the cities, because the he would get a chance to interact with the farmers face to face and would be well aware of the realities.
I am not intending to share the general knowledge of Agritourism, as I’ve already done that in my previous post, THE WORLD OF AGRITOURISM. Here, I just want to discuss about Agritourism not just as a practice but as an emotional journey where instead of assessing Agritourism in a traditional way, it becomes possible to look at it from the view of the farmers. I’m sharing some links below which can present to you a larger picture of Agritourism and about the efforts being taken to popularise it.
Agritourism in India
The future and benefits of Agritourism
Agritourism: If We Build It, Will They Come?
Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals
I came across a picture of a Government warehouse which had stored a number of grain sacks for storage, and a man was deliberately spraying water on those sacks to spoil them and sell them illegally to the alcohol manufacturing companies for his personal gains. I’m sharing some images below which clearly reflect the amount of hard work that the farmers put in and how people attempt to spoil them for some vested interest.
On one hand, a farmer performing strenuous tasks to earn his daily bread, and on the other hand a man spoiling the farmer’s hard work for some personal gains.
It is correct to say that this is possibly because of the corruption prevalent in our society, but I believe if that man had some sense of the labor and toil of the farmers, he would’ve definitely hesitated to do something like this, no matter the gains involved.
The truth is that Agritourism will develop truly and completely only when we change the way we look at agriculture, give it its due respect and be thoughtful and emotional towards the life of our farmers. One way that can prove to be effective is that the practices and the basic know-how of agriculture is made a part of the syllabus of the primary classes so that the students have some understanding and comprehension about agriculture from the school level. There should be occasional visits and trips to our villages where the students can imbibe knowledge about how farming is done, what types of crops are grown, and how much effort and hard work is involved.
I would like to end here with the hope that Agritourism, instead of being just a source of fun can also prove to be a parallel source of income for the farmers and could help give agriculture the respect it deserves, such that the future generations make it an essential part of their life.