Internationally, Bangladesh is now number 4 in vegetable production and number 4 in fish production. In addition, native capacities for rice, flower, wheat, prawn and tobacco cultivation has promoted our rural development. These rural dynamic products may uphold agro-tourism. The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was BDT193.0 billion (2.1% of total GDP) in 2012, which was 7.7% in 2013, and to rise by 6.4% from 2013-2023, to BDT384.7 billion in 2023. In 2012 Travel & Tourism directly supported 1,281,500 jobs. It is estimated that by 2023, tourism would create 1,785,000 jobs. If we reform land-water-forest sectors through home grown strategies, all – environment, water, land, forest, marginal farmers, fishermen, women, minority and indigenous peoples will be economically, socially and environmentally included for sustainable rural development.
Setting the Scene
Our motherland – Bangladesh, an ornamental territory is enriched with incredible greenery, diversity of seasons, diverse water bodies, forests, sun-drenched beaches, hills, indigenous peoples and their colorful life, archaeological attractions, handicrafts, feelings of brotherhood, religious festivals, foods, golden fibers, fishes and cultural heritage. Bangladesh Economic Review (2010) states that Bangladesh has basically three sectors of generating revenue: industry, agriculture and service. Tourism is a part of service sector which contributes to the Gross Domestic Product of Bangladesh. Though the contribution of tourism in GDP was only 7% in 2004-05, it had augmented to 9.44% by 2009-10. It decreased in 2014 to 4.1% of total GDP and contributed 4.7% in 2015. It is forecasted to escalate 7.2% in 2017. According to world travel and tourism council (2017), the travel & tourism industry created 2,187,000 job opportunities which are 3.8% of total employment in 2016. It is estimated to rise by 2.7% in 2017 to 2,247,000 jobs and rise by 1.8% to 2,695,000 jobs in 2027. If we want to establish culturally acceptable and economically viable agro-tourism industry at grass-root level, we have to explore agro-entertainment resources within diverse districts in Bangladesh.
Agricultural Economy in Bangladesh
Agriculture is the lifeblood of Bangladesh Economy and powerful driver of poverty reduction in Bangladesh. In rural Bangladesh, the factors behind the agriculture sectors growth are: irrigation expansion, improved technology, more efficient market and finally widespread mechanization (World Bank, 2016). The agricultural sector accounted for 90% of the reduction in poverty between 2005 and 2010. More than 70% of Bangladesh's population and 77% of its workforce lives in rural areas. Nearly half of all Bangladeshi workers and two-thirds in rural areas are directly employed in agriculture, and about 87% of rural households rely on agriculture for at least part of their sources of income. The data on recent house-hold level analysis show that non-agricultural income contributes 70% of household income.
In Bangladesh, now there are 15 million agro-based families mostly are marginal farmers whose average land is 1 acre. 85% of their land is less than 1 acre, specifically. What the main functions play is ‘choice of technique’ such as power pump, tractor(35 thousands), power thrasher(4 lacs), digital plant roping system, riper, non-deep tube well(15 lacs), deep tube well (35 lacs), power tiller(7 lacs) and combined harvester.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) ascribed Bangladesh for posting the uppermost year-on-year increment in vegetable production, falling behind only Uzbekistan and Nepal during the first decade of the 21st Century. in Bangladesh, there are a lot of vegetables are produced such as ─ aubergines, tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, water gourds, ridge gourds, bitter gourds, ash gourds, snake gourds, teasel gourds, sponge gourds, pumpkins, lady's fingers, cucumbers, radishes, beans, carrots, spinach, red amaranth, stem amaranth, yard long beans, and drumsticks.
This is very important that agricultural growth, food security and nutrition are closely linked. Particularly vegetables are rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, Calcium, Phosphorus and Iron. In rural Bangladesh, farmers are now highly encouraged in vegetable production, terracing, roof gardening, and interesting system on floating gardens. As well, it transpires farmers in rural area now to acquire knowledge on indigenous vegetable production system and that is indispensable part of agro-tourism in rural Bangladesh.
However, this growth is due to policy support, incentive to farmers, farmers' adoption of hybrid seeds and home gardening. The food grain production ─ more than tripled between 1972 and 2014, from 9.8 to 34.4 million tons. Apart from that, from rice to high-value and higher-nutrition crops significantly reduce malnutrition, trigger more rural economic growth in incomes, and can be a powerful source of employment generation, especially for youth and women.
In addition various World Bank projects ─ the integrated agriculture productivity plan is designed to improve resilience of agriculture production particularly in northern and southern affected by flash floods, drought and salinity intrusion. The social investment program builds and strengthens community institutions that mobilize the poor and extreme poor, livelihood support, nutrition awareness and agricultural production knowledge. The national agriculture technology program helps the Government of Bangladesh to ensure food security, encourage climate change adaptation and enhance nutrition through safer and more diversifies foods. I think these figures may produce rural entrepreneurs to increase agro-tourism markets aided by modern communication system.
Agro-tourism Products in Rural Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country of productive land. We have some agro-ecological zones suitable for sustainable farming. Also, some enterprises have established local farms—poultry, goat, buffalo and cow to eradicate poverty.
Through agro-tourism, both parties—tourists and indigenous groups exchange knowledge on poultry farming, importance of poultry manures in agriculture. Our country is an extreme sufferer of atmospheric and land based degradation. International and national agro-tourists can exchange views with local farmers on how to reduce climatic impacts on land, water, forest, health and fish resources.
Lands of Kushtia are fertile for tobacco, Mymensingh for paddy, Chandpur and Barisal are known for fish, Sathkhira for prawn, Jessore for flowers, Dinajpur for its wheat, and so on. So, Bangladesh has a lot of options when it comes to promoting the concept of agro-tourism and find new means that can contribute to its overall economy. In general, trekking the mountains of hilly rural areas of Rangamati, Khagrachari or Bandarban, wildlife safari into the jungles of Sundarban and Chittagong division with properly trained tourist guide might add a new dimesion in the development of tourism sector of Bangladesh (Ishita and Nusrat, 2013).
In addition, there are many pre-harvest festivals ─ Megharani, hudmadeya and wedding of frogs and gasvi for protecting crops. Post-harvest festival include in navanna, people or indigenous farmers celebrate the new harvest with cake(pitha), chira, muri and other foods. Folk culture and various local fairs may highlight our agro-entertainment at rural area.
Researchers and agro-tourists often share their experiences among indigenous farmers about climate change, global warming, crisis related to extract more ground water, arsenic pollution, importance of vermi-composting, bio-fertilizers. University and college students can spend their leisure time to try out organic farming in rural areas. Students can share their thoughts with farmers, teach them and gain indigenous knowledge from farmers in return. It is necessary now to cultivate our land in sustainable ways in order to have an organic future.
Recommendation: Marketing Strategies of Agro-product
Proper marketing provides full and responsible information, increases respect for the natural, social and cultural settings of destination areas and enhances customer satisfaction.
Information Technology: World Wide Web is the most popular application on the Internet which can be used effectively for the many purpose of tourism marketing including direct sales, advertisement and customer support. Bangladesh tourism authority needs to consider the effective use of this technology for the promotional activity of this industry.
Specific Regions: If the agro-tourism industry wants to attract more national and international tourists, it needs to publish some creative advertisement in some specific trek guides, magazines, and journals so that the latent tourists, overseas tour operators and travel writers read.
Group Tour and Long Stay: Rural area of Bangladesh can attract more tourists by offering more discounts on group tours for students and long stay visits. For example, discount on air tickets, hotel or rest house rents, and discounted price of local transport arranged by the tour operators. National airlines have a major role in this regards. In addition to escalate more agro-tourist, tourism board may offer more off-season discounts, students discount as well as arrange SAARC tour, ASEAN tour, ASEM tour, BCIM and BBIN tour to stimulate the impending tourists to visit Bangladesh.
Advertisement: Advertisement is a non-personal form of mass communication and offers a high degree of control for those responsible for the design and delivery of the advertising message. Different tourist attraction of the country can be advertised in Television, Radio, newspaper and magazines using persuasive message to attract the potential visitors. Home country media can be used to deliver the message. For example: Some persuasive and attractive advertisements like “Beautiful Bangladesh/Beautiful Rural Bangladesh” can be presented in broadcast media.
Public Relations: Public relations is the art and science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization’s leadership, and implementing planned programs of action which will serve both the organization’s and the public interest. Third-party like magazines, newspapers and news programs disseminate the messages on behalf of a particular organization. The increasing use of public relations and in particular publicity is a reflection of the high credibility attached to this form of communication and there is no charge for the media space or time but there are costs incurred in the production of the material. Bangladesh can establish one agro-tourism promotion office and help desk in each of the unions where a large number of visitors and farmers are supposed to be found.
Geo-graphical Information System: To market agro-tourism, geographical information systems (GIS) are very important. Through these systems, the tourism authorities can easily sell agro-tourism products and indigenous farming tools, show suitable localities for the incorporation of various plants and animals, elucidate geo-demographic characteristics and put in plain words, the cultural variety and socio-economic conditions of our rural farmers, fish collectors, poultry managers and indigenous peoples. This can help us to finally get to know the people who are most responsible for feeding the people of this nation and for keeping us alive.
Bangladesh is on the way of middle income country by the year of 2021. This context implies, she needs more land security of marginal people, housing security of vaporized people, health, food, education and pure water security for all. If we utilize the fundamental resources – land, water bodies, forest and human resources through proper policy configuration and implementation, public participation and power decentralization and give back the fundamental rights to farmers, women, fishermen, indigenous peoples, religious minority peoples and marginal peoples – the total production from land, water and forest will be high and the development would be sustainable. The ‘rural to urban’ migration reduction strategy of agro-tourism is a vital platform to reduce marginal poverty. Whatever, it needs more attention on rural infrastructure, security measures, safety and security, incentive and train to rural farmers, youth and women and finally encouraging private sector participants for sustainable agro-tourism.
The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.