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Project Background

In India, the government regards tourism as a panacea for development and is promoting it intensively both nationally and internationally. However, tourism policies and programmes are often biased towards the industry's bigger players. This has resulted in mass tourism with immense negative impacts on local communities and environments. There is a need to address these larger development concerns and Kabani has been facilitating community involved tourism programmes in these communities over the last ten years.

Mothakkara is a small village located in Wayanad, a northern hilly district of Kerala, South India. This village is predominantly an agrarian village and the farmers face a serious crisis due to climate change and fluctuating prices of crops. Farmers require additional income in order to overcome the crisis and have better quality of life. Community tourism is as an interim strategy during their shift from chemical farming to more sustainable agricultural practices such as organic farming.

Key Project Activities

  • Organised farmers and created awareness about the potential of community tourism and its benefits as an additional income for the farmers.
  • Mapped resources of the village to be used for tourism activities.
  • Prepared various customised programmes and information on the village ready for travellers.
  • Trained and educated home stay providers, village interpreters, village taxi drivers, artisans and women drum players on communication skills, zero waste, entrepreneurial development, hygiene, legal issues and gender.
  • Conducted special orientation for taxi drivers about safe driving. 
  • Helped farmers in obtaining all the licences and legal requirements for running home stays.
  • Set up standard procedures and requirements for running home stays as well as facilitated regular feedback from travellers.
  • Organised a series of training and storytelling programmes at the primary school with volunteers.  
  • Established an English library through a Facebook campaign.
  • Set up a village committee to function among the stakeholders.

Key Project Outcomes

In the first year Kabani Tours:

  • Facilitated visits: for 80 foreign travellers (staying 200 nights in total) predominantly from Europe.
  • Income through tourism: of INR 343,000 (Approximately USD 5500 in 6 months). Next season they are expecting more income and travellers. 
  • Direct beneficiaries: 140 people directly benefited from the project through training and tourism.
  • Indirect beneficiaries: 700 people indirectly benefited from the project at the school and library and 1500 people in the village.
  • Home stays: 5 home stays have been set up by farmers in the village after attending training programs and received a total income of INR 234,000.
  • Guides: 7 guides were trained (5 housewives and 2 students). They received a total income of INR 29,000.
  • Taxi drivers: 5 drivers benefited from this project. They received a total income of INR 68,000.
  • Women drummers: 10 women drummers learned a Kerala art form called Chenda to perform shows for travellers. In total their income was INR 7,700.

  • Potters: 2 potter families are involved in the programme. They organised small pottery workshops for the travellers. They earned INR 4500 in total.
  • Workshop: Two workshops were organised in the village with the participation of the village committee. 60 men and women helped in mapping the resources in the village as a base for all tourism activities.
  • Training programmes: 5 training programmes conducted at village level on various subjects such as waste management, hygiene, legal issues of their business, gender, sustainable development, communication skill, entrepreneurial skills etc. 120 people attended the training.
  • Storytelling at school: The volunteer travellers organised one-month storytelling and theatre workshop at the village school (Government lower primary school). 172 children predominantly from indigenous communities were part of it. This helped them to improve their communication skills.
  • English library: A Facebook campaign was initiated with the help of volunteers and set up an English library to the school. 600 children’s book were collected and handed over to the school.
  • Renovating library: Travellers helped to renovate the village library which has 400 active members. This work helped to set up library in a good condition.
  • Bio park: The travellers helped to design a bio park at the local school. This can create further awareness on climate change and environment conservation among children and villagers in general. The completion of the bio park will be done in the next year.

Community Involvement and Case Studies

The home stay, guides, taxis and all other people involved in this programme were empowered to successfully run the programme. 5 farmer families are offering home stays for the travellers and considering this as an additional income. Some of the families are offering meals to the travellers during the village trek. A village committee has been formed under a local organisation and they are managing tourism at village level. Female guides in this village are a visible success of the empowerment of women in the community. A village development fund has been set up and 10 % of the income from tourism goes to this fund. This money is funding larger sustainable activities of the village such as waste management, awareness creation etc.

Radhamani:  Radhamani is 59-year-old housewife and social worker from the village. She is now working as tourist interpreter (they call themselves ambassadors of the village). She is a keen learner and acquired communication skills rapidly through our training. Tourism is an additional income for her today.

Arjun: Arjun is a young student who just completed his degree in history with first rank. However, he has no money to continue his education, which could provide him with a more secure job. Now he is working as a tourist interpreter and using this additional money to continue his education.

Over all, the money from this programme helps people to get an additional income during the agrarian crisis caused by climate change and other external factors.

What's Next?

The programme is continuing with the involvement of Kabani. Tourism operations in the village are self-reliant but they need support in marketing. Kabani is facilitating marketing and quality control through its regular involvement. There are already booking for the next season and next level training programmes as well as planning quality improvement of operations. Activities in school need some continued assistance and Kabani will ensure this with its volunteer base. The current leaders will continue to lead the programme and share their knowledge and experience to the newcomers.

It is very hard to calculate the overall benefits of the programme. The programme not only brings additional income for the community but other benefits such as cultural exchange, learning soft skills through interactions and exchange of knowledge – all of which are very difficult to measure. But in our experience we could feel the change. The overall quality of life has also significantly improved. One of the most commendable benefits has been the empowerment of women in the village through their interaction with travellers – some of the host women now talk about feminist movements in Europe and green party in Germany!

Find out more about the Kabani project and watch sustainable tourism at work!

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