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By Titus Mutua
For many of us, tourism has always been about animals… the wilder beast migration, the Tsavo and Mara, the big five... Few would ever think that there was any connection between agriculture and tourism.
When five of the 17 finalists of the Miss Tourism Kenya Nairobi Edition visited with FCI there was a buzz. All eyes were fixed on the five beauties as they took their respective seats and later went ahead to talk to FCI staff on agrotourism; the connection between tourism and agriculture. For many of us, tourism has always been about animals… the wilder beast migration, the Tsavo and Mara, the big five, tourists travelling through the dusty terrains to see the Maasai warrior. Few would ever think that there was any connection between agriculture and tourism. Indeed, many were amazed to hear the contestants speak so knowledgably of what the tourism and agriculture sector could do if they came together.
So, what is the fuss around agrotourism? What is agrotourism? The concept of agrotourism is a direct expansion of ecotourism, which encourages visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand. Agrotourism is gathering strong support from small communities as rural people have realized the benefits of sustainable development brought about by similar forms of nature travel. Visitors have the opportunity to work in the fields alongside real farmers and wade knee-deep in the sea with fishermen hauling in their nets. Tourism is no longer limited to destinations which boast phenomenal wildlife or scenery. Indeed, even the farms and markets of Africa have become tourist destinations in their own right. Rural communities have become a critical part of tourism.
With this advent, we have to ask ourselves this question, ‘can our agriculture become a tourist attraction?’ Can tourists come to visit our fields, see where our coffee is grown, and witness the ‘onion revolution’ in Kieni, see where we grow our Traditional African Vegetables? Can they come and be part of our food culture? Learn how to make Mukimo, Terere and Managu? How about learning how to make Nyama Choma, Mutura or how to make Murisik? Can they be taught how to make Githeri? We most certainly believe so!
Our unequaled uniqueness at Farm Concern International is that we build on the Commercial Village Model which thrives on leveraging the strength of individual farmers coming together to get markets for their produce. Traditionally, most African cultures thrived on the Ubuntu philosophy, "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". This philosophy is at the center of the Commercial Village Models; our culture can and should be a tourist attraction. We dare think that the fact that the Kenyan smallholder farmers can come together and leverage on their oneness to commercialize agriculture and turn their lives around is as attractive as the wilder beast migration or the slopes of Mt. Kenya.
What can we achieve by pushing the agrotourism agenda? Firstly, we can help promote learning-cross cultural learning which enhances income for all through sharing knowledge; secondly, African culture teaches us a lot-and these experiences can be implemented elsewhere for realization of community transformation in the poorest communities in the world; and lastly, agrotourism would help communities learn how to guard their local wealth by fighting climate change, and protecting wildlife. There is a case to be made for agrotourism, there is an opportunity that we can leverage on as FCI and this is just a start. We call it agrotourism: a new perspective to tourism. We believe, do you?
FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.