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Kerala farmers beat debt with tourism
Usha Ram Manohar in Kochi | October 23, 2006 10:38 IST
In an effort to beat the odds following crop failure and rising debts, farmers in Kerala's spices-rich Waynad and rubber-rich Kottayam districts are taking the tourism route for prospects.
In the hilly district of Waynad, home to cardamom, coffee, tea and vanilla, farmers are opening their doors to tourists by renting out rooms to visitors.
Homestays are catching up with about 30 farmers in the district involved in it, says K Ravindran, Secretary of the Kerala Wynad Tourism organisation, a consortium of about 22 hotels, resorts and home-stays formed to promote the destination.
The organisation also has a programme to hone the skills of farmers in communication and hospitality and make them better equipped, he said.
With Waynad becoming synonymous with farmers' suicide, the organisation feels tourism can be a way out for them.
Tribal people and farmers are showing interest in tourism, he said, adding there has been about 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase in tourists coming to the district.
In Kanjirapally in Kottayam district, the 150-acre Kalaketty estate owners have jumped on the tourism bandwagon since the past two years.
The family is the third generation of rubber and spices farmers, says Aniya, who is married into the Pottamkulam family. The response has been very good, she says.
The Pottamkulam family is letting out 3 rooms of its bungalow built in 1925. Their tariff, inclusive of meals, works out to Rs 7500 per day. But the tourists are not complaining as they get the experience they crave for, the family says.
The menu offered is the authentic Syrian Christian food, which is a big favourite among their guests.
The tourists are also taken around to see the rubber tapping, and processing of rubber sheets. A goat and honey bee farm are added bonuses being offered to the tourists.
Ente Veedu (My Own Home), an 80-year-old colonial coffee estate, is offering home stays in Wayanad district.
Ravindran, a former employee of the Kochi-based Premier Tyres, says their main aim was to attract international travelers. Now, mostly domestic tourists visit Waynad.
He says the government should step in and help promote Waynad, where the major constraint is lack of adequate accommodation for tourists.
Waynad has enchanting rain forests, breathtaking waterfalls, mountain caves and exotic jungle trails. It has the largest proportion of aborigines in Kerala.
Over 26 per cent of Waynad is protected forestland with 2 major wild life sanctuaries-- Muthunga and Tholpetty.