And now Agri - tourism....

A group of 25 farmers of Maval taluka have come together to offer their farms as weekend getaways to tourists, by hoping to encash the attraction offered by its dams, caves, forts and scenic beauty.The group has formed the Maval Agri-Tourism Development Co-operative Society Limited (MATCSL) by pooling around 100 acre of land to promote agri-tourism. The Pune District Co-operative Bank would provide loans to upgrade facilities on these farms. Agri-tourism involves visiting a working farm or any agriculture, horticulture or agri-business operation, for the purpose of recreation, education or involvement in farming activities. Farmers serving as hosts, also double up as guides.In the recent past, many actors and industrialists have bought land in Maval taluka. Actor Amitabh Bachchan’s controversial land is located here, as also actor Dharmendra’s farmhouse. Vijay Kalekar, sarpanch of Kale Colony village — which is the headquarters of the farmer’s society, said, “A number of tourists visit the dams, caves, forts in the Maval taluka. Nearby Lonavala and Khandala are also a major attraction. However, most people are unaware of what the interiors of this area have on offer. We want tourists to come to our farms and experience the rural life, something that will also generate additional income for us. One of our members also operates a boating club in the backwaters of the Pavana dam. Agri-tourism will familiarise tourists with agricultural practices like floriculture, harvesting, bee-keeping, sericulture and dairy.” Each member of the society will get a loan of Rs 6 lakh for this project, to develop the necessary infrastructure, he added. He said the Kale Colony gram panchayat would be the entry point, from where tourists would be received by farmers and taken to the respective farms. “Some members have also made residential arrangements, while the others are in the process of upgradation.” He added that farmers’ activity is based on the model of the Pune-based Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC), a private body set up by entrepreneur Pandurang Taware in 2005. Apart from agriculture techniques, tourists get a first hand feel of authentic food, handicraft, dress, culture, music and language of the rural areas.

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