On World Agri-Tourism Day', Agri-Tourism Development Organization Baramati with the support of the Directorate of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra organized "International conference on Agri Tourism '' on 15th-16th May.
This year, the central theme of the conference was "Agri-Tourism - Women Farmer Entrepreneurship Development''. The conference was attended by 500 registered participants from 21 countries; and 30 speakers from 4 continents and 10 countries shared insightful information about scope and significance of agri-tourism. Over 1 lakh people attended the Conference through live streaming.
The conference saw the presence of many dignitaries including Pandurang Taware, Founder, Agri Tourism Development Corporation; Valsa Nair, Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra; Dhananjay Sawalkar, Director, Directorate of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra; and Coordinator Avinash Jogdand.
The two-day conference witnessed participation of national and international experts, researchers and farmers from various countries including Italy, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, Uganda, South Africa, Philippines, Scotland, Spain and Thailand.
Some of the prominent women entrepreneurs and experts in the field of agri-tourism who addressed the Conference were Dr. Mina Gabor from the Philippines, Ms. Ravazzoli Elisa of Italy, Ms. Lisa Chase & Ms. Jane Eckert from the USA; Maria Buryamujura of Uganda; Mrs.Nanda Kasar from Pune, Dr. Ashwini Kotkar from Thane and others.
They shared their experiences, studies, and various reforms undertaken in their respective regions to promote the growth of Agri tourism. They narrated their experiences on how they went out of their traditional roles and started their own business, the difficulties they faced and how they overcame them. The Conference highlighted the initiatives taken by the women to successfully run the agri-tourism centers around the world, the development of these centers through their ingenious and innovative methods, thus empowerment of rural women around the world. Another interesting fact presented was that, because of successful agri-tourism centers, many urban tourists of these countries are being able to indulge in nature and experience tourism at affordable rates.
At the end of the conference, Sawalkar, Director, Directorate of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra said, "Negotiations are underway with all the concerned departments with agri-tourism and the administration is trying to streamline the process of setting up agri-tourism centers by issuing ordinances. We strive to implement this policy successfully with minimal administrative control. Interested farmers will be given free training in hospitality, marketing, etc. The ideal Agri-tourism centers can be included in the business training/evaluation trips of the tourism department. We have recently approved the applications of 86 new agri-tourism centers and I am confident that the farmers will be inspired by this conference and register for more agri-tourism centers in the future.”
He also suggested that it would be more profitable to set up agri-tourism centers in well-known tourist destinations in the first phase, where it is difficult to get affordable accommodation.
At the end of this very informative conference, Sawalkar and Nair announced the International Agri-Tourism Awards.
Maharashtra has over 1000 Agri-Tourism centers which are empowering farmers and rural communities to enhance their economic viability and resilience. The centers are contributing majorly to strengthening of livelihoods for women in rural areas.