Archive for July, 2014

By: Ipsita Sarkar, New Delhi

Almost 74 per cent of Indias population resides in its 7 million villages. According to the Ministry of Tourism, rural tourism is one of the few solutions that can counter the effect of the growing urbanisation syndrome in villages. And the quintessential Indian village is attracting tourists by the thousands.

If an opposite word were to exist for the word city, it would have to be village. Your grandma and grandpa, might have highlighted this opposition a countless number of times saying Back in our village, there was so much peace and calm it was easier to breathe and life was uncomplicated. The yearning to return to their roots was strong. The dads might recall how they learnt to swim in the non-descript ponds and rivers of the villages (instead of the fancy country club swimming pool in town) and climb trees with a certain pride. How extended families reunited during family functions in their ancestral village home. And then there is Generation Us! City born, city bred. To whom such connections are but tales.

Since opposites attract, a natural curiosity to explore our rural roots was bound to emerge. In our increasingly hectic and fast paced city life, the idea of a vacation is often to take a break and head off to somewhere different. What better break than a visit to a rural destination? Visiting its untouched scenic wonders, witnessing a way of life so much closer to nature and in the process, creating sustainable eco-systems, providing alternate sources of sustainable livelihood opportunities for the rural people and empowering the local community in harnessing their natural resources. Rural tourism, an emerging eco-tourism sector, preserves and promotes eco-friendly practices, cottage industries and the cultural heritage of the local artisans.

Interestingly, rural tourism itself is a culmination of several different types of tourism including eco-tourism, agri-tourism, adventure tourism and socio-cultural tourism. According to the Minstry of Tourism, rural tourism is any form of tourism that showcases rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience.

So the question is how much of nature or environment goes into the making of rural tourism? Rural tourism goes way beyond just looking and admiring scenic beauty, it also is about understanding a responsible and ecological way of living and sustainable ways of livelihood. Says Jeevan Verma. Director of Rural Organisation for Social Elevation (ROSE), Kanda village, that conducts rural tours in the mountainous Uttarakhand region, Apart from getting acquainted with the Kumaoni culture at Kanda village, sight seeing, village visits cultural exchange and volunteering are other activities. We promote the concept of saving the eco-system in our rural tours. Some of the concepts touched upon include soil conservation, using local material such as stone, stone aggregate and sand-cement bonds for building. We see tree plantations, garbage disposal, use of compost for organic farming, promoting traditional techniques, micro dairy, goat rearing, poultry farms and rural livelihood options such as woolens making and bamboo craft, jewelry craft, stone masonry, carpentry, etc.
Rural tourism obviously focuses on agriculture, an important source of sustenance in villages. Farm visits form a crucial part of rural tours. A part of ROSEs rural itinerary during harvest season comprises showing visitors how to cut the various crops using only a knife. These crops include rice, wheat, millet, soya, beans and chickpeas to name a few. Wheat and rice grains are pounded with a mortar and pestle to make flour for the chapattis eaten at most meals. Besides, the tourists are familiarised with the different kinds of crops and their sowing patterns.
Homestays are an important initiative put up by local communities in rural areas for visitors to live with native families, instead of staying in guest houses and lodges. Its not only an economical option but also gives the travellers an opportunity to experience village life first hand. The travellers get to stay in thatched huts or comparatively more luxurious farm houses, eat food cooked at the village hearths, move around in simple modes of transport (two legs, two wheelers like cycles or bullock carts).

Inir puts across the rationale of a homestay beautifully, One of the biggest virtues of India has been its power of acceptance. Our country has always accepted other religions and cultural influences from outside and this cultural experimentation has been the essence of preservation and non-conflict. This is the basic idea of homestays. Verma describes the homestays as grounds for encouraging good relationship and brother hood and family member a la a global village.
http://www.exploringtourism.com/volunteering-in-north-of-india/ visitors at Chaokoree

A-JPGU Sunargaon

A -World wide rural tourist as home stay at ROSE

Marcelo and Sara at Tea garden May 2013

A-Herri painting

Hialaya from Vijaypur kanda

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