At the time when farmers in Maharashtra are frantically looking for alternative sources of income, an agro-research body in Pune has decided to promote agro-tourism as an option for them.
World over, agro and eco tourism—where tourists go to countryside to have a feel of rural life—is catching up. Governments like Malaysia are furiously promoting the same. Closer home, several farmers in Karnataka are getting involved in agro-tourism to earn some more.
Pune based Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) on Wednesday announced that it will soon spread the concept among the State’s farmers.
"I realized potential in agro-tourism when more than 7,000 people visited our pilot project in the past one year,” said Rajendra Pawar who heads the ATDC. Rajendra happens to nephew of Unuion Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
A pilot project was launched by ATDC at Malegaon near Pune on a 100 acre farm owned by a local body, Krishi Vikas Pratishthan.
"Most of the farmers are committing suicide since they have no supplementary income. Agro-tourism can fetch them good money", Pawar opined adding that income of farmers around Malegaon agro-tourist spot, has increased by 25 per cent per annum due to number of visitors.
Pawar stated that there was a lot of money with urban people who want to search or go back to their roots.
"This can come as a handy for the farmer" he observed and added that ATDC plans to develop those spots in the country, which has some historical, natural or religious background.
Tying up with the agriculture university in Pune, the ATDC will be working as an agency for the farmers, who want to develop agro-tourism. A technical committee will visit the site of the concerned farmer, will prepare project report and will submit it to the bank for loan, Pawar said.
ATDC has already started negotiations with some nationalized banks, which have show keen interest to make the finance available for the project. Either indiviual farmers or group of farmers can come together and launch a project, he said.
As per the ATDC concept, agro-tourism will introduce the people to the rural culture where they will be staying in typical village houses, will be given village break fast, lunch dinner and will also be made familiar with rural culture by performing various programmes.
Experts in the field say the idea can bring money to the farmers.
“There is potential in agro-tourism considering the response I am getting,”said Charu Bhide, who runs Abhivan, an agro-resort some 15 km away from Pune.
Rajendra Deshpande, a tour operator, said: “There is lot of curiosity among people in big cities who want to get a taste of rural life.”