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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.
In the first year Kabani Tours:
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.
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!