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OP-ED: Renting out the farm

  • Published at 03:46 am September 11th, 2020
Nalim farmers

Could Bangladesh use its agricultural sector to boost tourism and development?

Agro tourism as an aspect of the tourism industry has developed with not much literature. In general, the phenomenon is represented thematically as agricultural tourism, agri-tourism, farm tourism, farm vacation tourism, wine tourism, agri-entertainment, etc. 

These terms are usually used to cover the ideas of community-based small farming or small-scale farm enterprises produced by rural households, and showcase the agricultural heritage of regional or local farming to the tourists. 

Agro-tourism opens up “rural experiences” to travelers with the aim of creating further livelihood opportunities for rural people and generating revenue not only for them, but also for surrounding communities. It allows the visitor to become familiar with indigenous farming in rural areas, generally for educational or entertainment purposes. 

It incorporates large open spaces and low levels of industrial and urban development with the intention of facilitating opportunities for visitors to gather direct experiences from agricultural, pastoral, and natural environments. 

The contemporary idea of agriculture is divided into two parts -- urban agriculture and rural agriculture. Agro-tourism, however, focuses on activities designed to strengthen the rural economy and social development in general. Agro-tourism combines agricultural or rural settings with regional products in order to provide a tourism experience. 

Internationally, the scope of work mainly encompasses several types of farming, eg, foods, beverages, fodder, fibre, livestock products, hunting, fishing, and forestry. When this is integrated into tourism experiences, the scope of agro-tourism expands into agro-based small scale industries located in the rural part of a country and traditional services of rural agriculture with culture, beliefs, and value systems. 

It might also boast striking features which showcase challenging issues, such as geographical locations which are remote or disaster-prone and have low density of human settlements. 

Bangladesh as a developing country has plenty of opportunities in agro-based tourism. However, even now, mainstream tourism is undergoing development in the country, and agro-tourism remains nothing more than a concept for most people. 

But it can be developed parallelly with traditional tourism activities by utilizing the country’s abundance of nature and robust agricultural production. Bangladesh’s state as a naturally agrarian country provides us with the opportunity to explore a new dimension of the tourism industry beyond conventional development approaches in the sector. No big investment is required for such an approach. We need to develop strategies with regards to how and where we can frame our traditional agricultural practices and align them with tourist demands. For instance, we can develop some small events such as farm tours, farm stays with bed and breakfast, tractor or bullock cart rides, fruit picking, farm zoos, and other farm attractions with little or no extra expenditure in labour. 

In many countries, this concept is utilized to provide tourism experiences filled with fresh food among peaceful rural settings. With the rise in popularity of organic farming in the country, we can use that too towards developing an agro-tourism industry in the best possible way. We may include farmers’ markets where visitors can purchase farm-fresh products, floral garden tours, and harvest festivals. These could be fantastic attractions. 

Lastly, for all these initiatives, environmentally friendly approaches must be designed and monitored to maintain the sustainability of the industry. In designing the process, we should keep in mind that agro-tourism products might vary from location to location or season to season.  

As Bangladesh is geographically well-situated for agricultural practices, our thinking of agro-based development should not be isolated from the mainstream development agenda of the country. Moreover, the country’s SDG-related activities would do well to consider economic factors associated with tourism and agro-tourism as an opportunity through which these goals can be achieved. 

Unfortunately, while overall economic growth is accelerating, tourism has not been performing well among the competitive growth sectors. But we must remain optimistic, and work towards fulfilling the potential of the agro-tourism sector, which can contribute towards the improvement of income and livelihood of rural communities in Bangladesh. 

Polin Kumar Saha is an Environment and Sustainability Professional. He can be reached at [email protected]