Homestead farming combined with tourism could hold the future for Kerala’s tourism and labour sectors, both of which have been severely affected by the pandemic situation.
Anyone having land ranging from five cents to even 25 acres could opt for homestead farming, a combination of homestay and farming, without spending much on augmenting amenities to host visitors. It would be apt for people interested in agriculture with cultivable land around their house, said Jose Dominic, co-founder and former CEO of CGH Earth.
“All that is needed is conversion of one’s farm land into an enterprise. This will help attract visitors, including tourists, while furthering the cause of food security. It will also provide solace to people rendered unemployed by the pandemic, including returnees from West Asia,” he said.
Homestead farms would be different from colonial-era plantations that abound in the State. Intercrop, rearing of farm animals, and making of cheese and other dairy produce could also be done. Such farms could also provide respite for city residents who want to take a break and be in the midst of greenery for a few days. Farmers could opt to convert their produce into value-added items, get them packed and brand them. It would empower local labour, said Mr. Dominic, who owns a homestead farm in Pala.
Kerala’s Responsible Tourism (RT) initiatives kicked off in Kumarakom with focus on homestead farming, said Rupesh Kumar, State coordinator of the RT Mission. “Members of the local community there arrayed themselves under clusters and began selling their agri products to hotels. A total of 18,000 small and medium farmers across Kerala are now part of this. Tourists love being introduced to the concept. It is yet again emerging as a trend since substantial number of people have turned to this to tide over the pandemic and in order to eat healthy food. It will in the long run usher in self-sufficiency in vegetables, fruits and other produce,” he said.
There are entrepreneurs like Paulose K. George, who converted 2.50 acres of paddy field on his 18-acre plot at Thengode, near Kakkanad, into a fish farm in 2019. “I did this in association with the Fisheries Department, starting off with 10,000 seedlings of three varieties of fish, including pearl spot and freshwater prawns. Visitors come to the farm and purchase up to 100 kg fish each day. They can also do angling. The farm also has coconut, nutmeg and arecanut, among other produce,” he said.
“The Fisheries Department provided a subsidy of ₹1 lakh, with the result that the venture that I took up as a hobby, became profitable from the first year itself,” added Mr. George.