Situated about 8kms from Saputara, a popular hill station in south Gujarat, Baradpani has abundant natural beauty and insight into the local tribal culture.
In 2017, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) collaborated with Grassroutes Journeys to set up a tourism project with the purpose of generating livelihoods for the local community. What tourists experience in the village is the culture and tradition of the local community along with beauty of hills, rivers and green farm lands. The tourists go through activities that a villager does on a daily basis - preparing food the traditional way and farming in the fields. Tourists also get a chance to interact with the villagers over a cup of local chai or play local games with the children of the village.
The initial stages at Baradpani involved building rapport with the villagers. Then an exposure visit to a model village - Purushwadi - helped them to understand the benefits from the villagers themselves. After the exposure visit, a discussion and feedback session was sought on the villagers’ willingness to start tourism in Baradpani. The trainings started when the villagers responded positively, encompassing guiding skills, soft skills, communication skills, cleanliness and hygiene, housekeeping skills, first aid and safety, snake awareness, etc.
At present, there are at least 20 families enrolled in the project and 50 tourists have visited Baradpani. The project has gained a good response from local hotels and travel operators - who have included one-day visits to Baradpni village as part of their tour packages. The project has the potential to expand to nearby villages and thereby create local employment opportunities for a large number of community members.
In the current age of information and communication technology, television, mobile phones and access to the internet has penetrated even the most secluded rural belts. Access to technology and exposure to big cities due to migration has further altered the aspirations of rural youths. Increasingly, youth from tribal and rural areas aim to go for higher education, gain meaning full employment and start their own enterprises.
Despite this migration to urban areas, tribal and rural areas have inherent potential for enterprise development, particularly in areas like eco-tourism, arts and crafts, animal husbandry, agro-processing, honey production and millet-based products. However, the infrastructure and technology are not there. One of the major reasons for a lack of enthusiasm for entrepreneurship development among tribal populations is the absence of an enabling ecosystem in the tribal areas.
In response, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) (AKRSP (I)) started to build that enabling ecosystem in 2016. Its rural youth initiative programme seeks to promote entrepreneurship development among tribal and other rural communities, particularly youth and women. A limited number of youth and women’s groups go through a rigorous selection process that involves application, field visits, one to one interviews, workshops, business plan development and community feedback. The selected youths get support on training, mentoring, exposure visits, business development, financial linkages and limited seed funding.
Originally focused on rural youth from marginalised sections like scheduled tribes and women, the programme now has expanded to goat rearing cooperatives of women, solar based irrigation entrepreneurs, women para-veterinarians, commercial poultry farms, eco-tourism, bamboo crafts, and millet-based products are some of the successful innovative models of AKRSP (I)’s entrepreneurship development work.
Jobs created, income and impact
- 40 tribal entrepreneurs, employment for around 100 youths: Rs. 20000-35000/month
- 35 solar irrigation service providers: Rs. 120000-150000/year
- 389 Pashu Sakhies- average income: Rs. 3000-4000/month
- 26 farmers’ producers companies: income generating opportunity to 20443 farmers with Rs. 33.89 crore turnover
- 70000 small enterprises around backyard poultry, goat farming and other petty trades provide income-generating opportunity to 70000 people earning around Rs.4000- 5000/month.