Sunil Mankikar, a farmer in Wardha district of Maharashtra, earned Rs 27 lakh last year only through agri tourism. Farmers are increasingly taking up agri tourism, along with farming, to increase their income. They are now building cottages on their farms and keeping these open for guests who want to experience rural life.
Another farmer, Ganpat Parthe, who is into cultivation of strawberries, mulberries and raspberries, from Bhilar district in Maharashtra, has also tried his hand at agri tourism, and it has proved profitable for him, as well. Parthe has two cottages on his farm, which he rents out to groups/families at Rs 700 per head for a day, including food. He takes tourists around the farm to give them a glimpse into a farmer’s life, and offers them food devoid of extravagance.
“My income has gone up by 20-30 per cent in the last couple of years due to agri tourism. It helps me cover losses incurred sometimes from farming,” Parthe added.
Some farmers have moved a step further and provide tourists with additional activities such as rock climbing and jungle safari. Tourists are also taken to the village river for a swim and local food processing centres.
The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) with Maharashtra Tourism Development Board (MTDC) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) are helping farmers to take up these initiatives, which will help them from selling their lands to builders for real estate purposes.
In Maharashtra so far, 90 centres have been registered, but many more are running unregistered. One centre is one farm or a collective of four-five farms. Around 400-500 tourists visit agri tourism centres in the state every month, but the number increases during the holiday season. Some agri tourism centres have already been booked for the upcoming season.
Agri tourism centres are also present in Haryana, Sikkim, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Similarly, vineyards in Nasik have set up villas for tourists to enjoy tasting various wines and experience the pleasure of living on a vineyard. Some vineyards use this to educate tourists about wines.
Teri is organising a project in April — training programmes for rural entrepreneurs and farmers in Pune, Nasik and Goa — to educate them on agri tourism, grape processing, floriculture, and organic farming. Indian Council of Agricultural Research and MTDC have partnered with Teri in this endeavour.
“This will help farmers to transcend to the next level of development and give them an insight into the requirements on how to start a business as well as a comprehensive knowledge of the latest practices,” Anjali Parasnis, fellow & coordinator of Teri said.
“We hope to bring the farmers together and help them understand agri tourism better. This will increase their income levels and the entrepreneur-based activities,” D Ranjit, assistant general manager of Nabard, said.
“This concept has not yet developed in India. We (MTDC) want to promote this activity, as it is in the interest of farmers. We will help them if they register on our website. We will give them a platform to increase their visibility. It will also help tourists understand the kinds of crops that are grown in Maharashtra. This will also help bridge the gap between urban and rural India and help tourists connect with rural life,” Kinalekar, manager, MTDC, said.
The emergence of agri tourism has not only helped farmers to hedge their risks from normal farming activities and increase revenues, but also improve their lifestyles. In a recent conference held in Mumbai on promotion of agri tourism, several farmers came up as corporate participants.