By Daniel Karibwije
Tourism’s benefits must be felt outside urban areas to fulfill its potential to provide opportunities for all. The COVID-19 pandemic resets the tourism industry. The global restart of tourism has enabled the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to work closely with UN agencies from the start of the crisis.
World Tourism Day 2020 was celebrated under the theme: Tourism and rural development. The UNWTO and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) resolved to build a framework of enhanced collaboration, including sharing of knowledge and resources.
Tourism is a cross-cutting industry. The importance of co-operation at every level is vital to ensure the sector works for everyone. Uganda is largely a country of smallholder farms.
There are some commercial farmers, but subsistence producers dominate.
Agriculture, the main livelihood of 80% of households, presents an opportunity. Agritourism is about exploring and understanding the lives of farmers and their families in rural areas.
Agritourism helps celebrate a community’s agricultural heritage, including traditional practices, food and produce, recipes and local culture. It allows tourists to have hands-on experiences at farms and enjoy local produce.
This calls for skill and professionalism.
Across FAO’s globally important agricultural heritage systems network of communities, tourism is a leading driver of equality.
The sector employs women and youth, giving them a stake in economic growth.
By proactively promoting agritourism, money reaches the pockets of women and youth.
Agritourism is fused with cultural heritage. Thus, it is a product you do not just stumble into, but have a plan and strategy for its development. Other names for agritourism include agrotourism, farm tourism and agricultural tourism.
The smallholder farmers in Uganda and co-operative societies should embrace this growing and unique tourism product. Agritourism is most popular in the vineyards and organic farms of California, which make the state a top agro-tourism destination.
More than a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of fruits and nuts grown in the US are from California.
There are nine categories of agritourism products and services. These are agriaccomodation, agri-food and beverages, primary agritourism, direct sales, agri-recreation, agri-sport, agri-tainment, agritherapy and cultural tourism.
A farm visit to arabica coffee farmers around Mt Elgon in Bugisu region means you will sell the rich history and heritage, including the imbalu circumcision ceremony.
For the start, it would be too ambitious to have all the nine sub-categories under
one roof, but rather choose just one or two areas of specialty. Focusing on a few allows entrepreneurs in agrotourism to provide the best possible experience to visitors, upgrading facilities every year.
Emburara Farm lodge in Mbarara is the best example of agritourism in Uganda.
The floors of the rooms are spread with beautiful hides and skins from the Ankole cow.
The facility provides unique farm experiences for guests and has a brilliant YouTube video promotion. Integrating internet technology in the farm tourism mix, marketing cattle and culture is creative.
This attracts Generation Z, the digital natives to get interested in agriculture.
Uganda is recognized globally as the birthplace of robusta coffee. How are we minting money out of this fact? There can be no other birthplace, so promoting farm visits in coffee-growing regions spreads tourism dollars to rural households.
This is why tourism is cross-cutting and is everybody’s business. How is coffee harvested? What are the unique coffee drying techniques? The tales and history of coffee should be documented for the interest of domestic tourists and international arrivals. The packaging of agritourism will determine how it can be sold to different markets.