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Promoting Agritourism to South America and Brazil

by Suleman
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Introduction

They could all be used as eco-tourism, agritourism, or green tourism, whether it is scuba diving in the coral reefs, trekking among hill tribes, taking an adventure in the Amazon, or seeing wild animals in South Africa. Both of them have the same goals; responsible travel to natural environments with the aim of protecting the climate and enhancing local people’s lives; or responsible travel. This project was targeted at the agricultural tourism or agrotourism part of the project. In this report, this concept is to incorporate tourism into farms and offer tourists an opportunity to see and assist in the general agricultural practises of every day, or simply come and linger as a home stay. Farmers will open their farms to offer visitors a chance to see remote rural areas of the world that people might not usually get a chance to visit. The research work for this project was carried out in South America and, especially, in Brazil. Tourists could view practises such as harvesting and providing assistance in the process, and actually see how the country of origin harvested sugar canes, locally produced fruits, maize, coconuts, etc. From the viewpoint of a farmer, the goal of agritourism was to earn revenue from tourism operations by inviting tourism into their society, thereby helping farmers and local communities to benefit financially. The local population will not be part of an overseas operation in this enterprise that through dishonest means, made up a higher proportion of their vibrant hoods. Agro-tourism is dedicated to industrial progress, cultural sustainability, agricultural development and sustainable growth in the future. The goal of the project is not only to help farmers or individuals specifically involved in the project, but also to contribute to the growth and prosperity of society as a whole. Thaise Guzzatti created such a strategy for Brazil, and according to her, the model of agritourism brought new sources of income for rural communities, encouraging rural growth and maintaining local culture and environment while simultaneously benefiting the tourist (‘Thaise Guzzatti,’ 2007).

Promoting Agritourism to South America and Brazil

Project Objectives

With the aid of agro-tourism, remote rural areas may be built and made more prosperous in the future. Instead of flooding them with tourism events, an agricultural tourism model can be planned to better balance the local economy, blend with the community, and provide support and motivation. It can help to foster improved housing, community cohesion, more employment and better schooling, not just in places that are specifically impacted by agribusiness, but also in the country as a whole. An objective of the project is to help the community support and promote education within the community, including their possibilities for employment, and also help them understand and be proud of their own culture. This feature has been overlooked in many tourism models, and highlights the visitors’ need to learn and understand the cultural nuances of the community that they were visiting, and simultaneously the local people’s need to learn and understand the importance of their own culture and the culture of the incoming international tourists. As the local communities were not accustomed to hosting foreign visitors in their communities, there was a need for understanding and acceptance that the communal exchange would be beneficial to all concerned. As suggested by Thaise Guzzatti, agrotourism in Brazil worked with communities to transform them into local networks of small family-run tourism enterprises, thereby making a profound impact on social, economic, and environmental transformations. The first stage of the project was to be accomplished by assess whether the local people would welcome help from strangers in their farms and communities, and whether the local government would be interested in promoting and funding agritourism ventures. Also, an objective of the project was to develop guidelines for stakeholders to give them the feel of a well organized quality certified network, which would serve their community and enrich support. The community felt the need to be strengthened, and were keen to open their homes to visitors. With greater opportunities for rural families, especially youth and women who previously lacked economic powers, there would be new job opportunities and better income prospects, which could reduce migration to bigger cities or even other countries. A project has been successful in India’s rural areas, where the people understood that life was better in the country working and supplying for their families, rather than fleeing to big cities to beg or steal as has been observed in several cases (Ashoka & American India Foundation, 2009). In summary, the project aims to make communities proud of their cultures and traditions, encourages promotion of incoming visitors, and seeks help from local governments, secretariat of states, ministry of information, and NGOs to make this a working project.

Background Issues

Brazil is rich in agricultural products, such a sugar cane, fruits, etc. and has demonstrated that it could be benefited greatly by agritourism activities. According to figures from the Brazilian Geography Institute, 75 percent of the farming area in Brazil was owned by 5,00,000 farmers, who employed 5 million people, and 13 million rural workers occupied the remainder who produced for sustainability. With Over 1500 agricultural facilities in Argentina, 350 in Brazil there were established possibilities for other less known areas to benefit from agricultural activities in Southern America. In many rural areas of Southern America, working opportunities were vast and many people were sometimes forced to travel to other areas, mainly the bigger cities to search for employment. Through agricultural tourism, stronger communities could be built thereby encouraging more people to stay in towns, educational and working skills of communities could be improved, and general economical situation of these rural towns could be improved. A plan that has been accepted and generally worked well in Southern Africa is the interaction of tourism and local people, where a tourist could visit the townships and see how the people lived in the poorer communities of Southern Africa. The program has helped bring down the crime rate, as the locals have realised that the tourism was an important part of their economic future (Pro-Poor Tourism, 2009). Another purpose of this study was to recognise, what type of agricultural tourism would be best suited to which towns. Activities include farm hands, crop picking, general working duties like construction, painting, etc. Rural tourism in Brazil has been a recent activity, which refers to the aspects of the rural territory, the economic base, the natural and cultural resources, and society. The Ministry of Tourism confirmed it was that there has been a growth of 15 percent a year in Brazil. In Brazil, rural tourism encompasses all activities in rural spaces which include eco tourism, green tourism and farm houses. Since these activities have not been developed by the local population, economic benefits have not been reaped by the community and growth of tourism sector has not seen corresponding sustainable development. 94 percent of the agricultural establishments in the state of Santa Catharina have been classified as family farms. The remote inland regions of the state have been greatly isolated and have been in a state of abandonment. Farmers in these areas have difficulty developing their businesses due to the limited access within these areas. Badly maintained access roads, lack of electricity and telephones has made it difficult for progression. The municipalities have lost a sizeable portion of their population to such factors, compounded by the additional factor that youth has been attracted to more attractive urban centres.

Tourism growth in Brazil is expected at around 4.5% between 2010 and 2019 (Overseas Report, 2009), and Argentina’s tourism is expected to generate from 186.4bn to 304.3bn dollars by 2017 (World Travel & Tourism Center, 2009).The future for tourism in South America is bright, with significant sugar production, variety of fruits, meats of the highest standard, colourful cultures and music, and sporting events including the upcoming world cups. There were many sites to visit, including Amazon regions, Iguaçu, Pant anal, Patagonia, etc. South American countries have great resources for attracting tourists, but have been limited to only certain areas, and mainly the larger cities. Agritourism could mix the tourism wealth with the produce of the countries helping spread more wealth into remotest rural areas.

Findings

Agritourism, already an established practice in Southern America, could obviously be accomplished, but the characteristics of remote rural areas had to be determined for agritourism be introduced into extreme rural areas. The research for this project was conducted in Tres Rios, which is about 2 hours from Rios de Janiero. A determination has been made whether this project could be brought in an area overlooked by such practices and without any real international tourists. Tres Rios had a population of 72.000 people, and the majority of the people were Brazilians. The town staged good local folklore dancing all year. Capoiera was practiced in local centres or in the streets. Performances could be viewed on the street on occasional Saturdays. There was a very good rafting facility nearby, which could do pick-ups to and from Rio City centre. There were hills where hiking could be done and local people could take visitors riding on horsebacks. A good local transport system was available that ran regularly for 2.50 reals and would take visitors around most of the town. The transport in and out of Tres Rios was coach, and the service was good, comfortable, clean and at a reasonable cost of around 30 reals (approximately 15 dollars). The coach operated regularly to and from the Rio city centre. There were good shopping facilities and a limited number of eating places, more so for the lower budget, which would suit travellers who were interested in the experience rather than the spending. There were a limited number of hotels, including budget hotels. Tres Rios is approximately one hour from Petropolis, which is rich in Portugese and Brazillian history and could be reached cheaply by bus. It has been found that Tres Rios is a town that is suitable for agritourism, and the locals have been very welcoming. The town has been missed as advertising has been lacking and there is scant outside knowledge. There are in a nation as big as Brazil, many interesting places to visit form a purely tourist’s perspective. This is another reason why a project like argitourism is required to bring the right people in the right numbers, and develop a program based on local talents and local sights.

Having experienced the positive and the poor side of all tourism, participated in areas with successful tourism programs, and widely travelled in general, it has been a matter of great interest to get involved in activities to develop tourism, and directly influence the local people and businesses themselves. There were many voluntary programmes that helped encourage people to work in communities, and had hands-on experience helping families and children in particular. These were good programmes with honest working ethics. Visitors could work in the community, learn a new language and as has been observed in many cases, make good friends and stay connected. The main problems that have been observed in these cases were that the tourists paid the sponsoring company a fee to join or a fee for their time there and this money was collected by an international agent outside the country that benefitted from the experience as well. One of the objectives of this research has been to take the agricultural business directly to the people. Brazil, a country full of life and culture from Africa and Europe, is the home several cultures that are sometimes overlooked. As a country full of possibilities there were problems also. Having recently been to a meeting to encourage events, such as Capoeira (a kind of dance and martial art form), it was observed that local folklore dancing aimed to display the rich African culture. Artists were encouraged to develop their art and there was funding available to encourage art, but what lacked was an audience. Each group wanted to develop and display their hobbies, sports, etc. to the public, but it was apparent that they alone could not bring in tourists as they desired. The idea of local run agricultural tourism has been introduced to the community, which would help bring people to the community and then the other people could develop their other ideas. The secretary of state was open to the idea and understood that this could be done and offered support. With the help of a local who taught both Capoeira and folklore dance, we visited few local fazendas, which are farms in Brazil and spoke to the people to determine whether they were interested in the idea. The replies were very forthwith and they were pleased with the ideas, but had no real experience and were worried about safety and laws. An NGO would have to step in and help with the regulations through existing programmes. A tourist is allowed to work three months in Brazil, but could volunteer work with an organisation or study program or seek permission for another three months stay.

Short day programmes could be developed that would run as has been observed in other areas of Brazil. There were 3-4 day programmes that offered guided local tours in Anitápolis. They offered pick-up and accommodation (Amazon Adventures, 2009). The services were basic and all taken up by the local farms and communities. During my research, I was working from my rented house that I was able to obtain by contacting the locals. As I was not interested in paying the full fee of a company, I set-up my own working arrangements that paid for my rent, and I worked in the garden as arranged and they supplied me with a bed and food. Also, I gained the opportunity to learn little portages from my experience and I was able to keep my costs to a minimum. I assume from my own knowledge that the project is a viable one, with little costs and the ability to help the community directly.

Negative Issues Associated with Agritourism and Agriculture

As with most tourism products, however well the positive effects are promoted, there always are negative aspects. As tourism grows in an area and more people enter and leave, some sort of impact on the area is expected. As with a small rural town that has had little impact from tourism, there could be a negative impact. Having spoken to many local people in this town, they were there because they liked it, and they did not want the big flowing traffic of the big cities. They were in the country because they wanted the country life. As one person, who was questioned, pointed out “with more tourism comes the more money comes but it does not always bring wealth. It can also bring more problems.” As money from tourism would rise, so would other issues such as begging, crime, etc. This issue with agritourism was one to examine. In Tres Rios, the crime was within reasonable control, so with tourists with money to spend, it would be helpful to determine whether it would promote more tourism or crime, and whether it would be possible to control tourism to a limit so that the balance of a good country life would not be upset. It is my belief that with this project a balanced flow in an area with a population of 72.000 people could be achieved, and could be kept to a minimum to help the community without the risk of future damage.

The problem with agriculture in South America, and more so in Brazil because of its numerous agricultural possibilities was that most of the profits were taken out of the country. An example is Starbucks of America that bought coffee beans only to sell back to the people at a higher price. In a report published by Ripoff Report (2007), a pound of Starbucks coffee cost US10$, and were charging CA15.95$ in Canada though the CAD had a greater value than USD. Coffee farmers in Ethiopia received US 1.35$ per pound for Sidamo coffee which sold for US 26$ (Garamfalvi, 2007). One big problem that was glaring was the educational side of the local people to tourism. Although it is great to believe that agritourism could be run solely by the people, the lack of education on the subject of not only agritourism but tourism and people in general, alone was an issue that would take time and would need outside help from the beginning to train and educate the people better.

Conclusion

With agritourism that there is a possibility to help promote and improve the lives of the people in a town like Tres Rios, which could give people a larger possibility to grow with more working opportunities and educational possibilities. There would be an interaction of teaching and learning by both the in-coming tourists, who would have skills to offer and by the skills of the on-site local people. Hopefully, the government will secure funding for the local farms and open the doors for tourists who want to enter the programme and allow any relaxation of visa regulations for allowing tourists to work voluntarily in Brazil. The fazenda (farms) which participated in the interviews where willing to consider the possibility, but had reservations and needed more information. It would take time to give confidence to them, and for allowing laws to provide adequate safeguards to the project, protecting both the tourist and farmers. But the potential does exist, and agritourism would still require more market research to really determine the needs and wants of the people and prospective tourists. Strategies that will need to be put in place to plan how and what would be the best steps to develop the idea. Full support from the local tourism authorities is a must to achieve success. The possibilities of bringing a flow of controlled good working tourism to the rural areas, and specifically agritourism project to Tres Rios is a true possibility.

References:
  • Amazon Adventures. (2009). Brazil. Available: http://www.amazonadventures.com/florianopolistours.htm. Last accessed 09 June 2009.
  • Ashoka, American India Foundation. (2009). India. Available: http://www.ashoka.org/india. Last accessed 09 June 2009.
  • Ashoka Fellows. (2007). Thaise Guzzatti. Available: http://www.ashoka.org/fellow/4069. Last accessed 08 June 2009.
  • Center for International Private Enterprise. (2009). OverseasReport. Available: http://www.cipe.org/publications/overseas/index.php. Last accessed 09 June 2009.
  • Garamfalvi, A. (2007). Ethiopian Coffee Trademark Dispute With Starbucks Runs Hot and Cold. Available: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1173261800496. Last accessed 09 June 2009.
  • Pro-Poor Tourism. (2009). Pro-Poor Tourism Working Papers. Available: http://www.pptpartnership.org/ppt_pubs_workingpapers.html. Last accessed 09 June 2009.
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