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Developing Agroecotourism in Nepal
Introduction Agro-ecotourism, a combination of agrotourism and ecotourism, uses diversified resources, both natural and man-made ranging from landscape and biodiversity to cultural heritages. Agritourism and ecotourism are practiced in many countries including USA, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Looking into the possibilities, agritourism is getting attention from researchers, policy makers and planners and developmental workers of many parts of the world. This agrotourism can be used to motivate and encourage farming communities to raise their crops in eco-friendly way to conserve their agrobiodiversity on farm. In the academic institutions, faculties and students are also trying to explore and explain how agricultural activities (such as organic farming, traditional agriculture) can be used as a most effective means for tourism development and landscape conservation. Similarly, ecotourism can be used as a tool to aware people to prevent the negative impacts of tourism on environment, economy and social life of the people of particular areas where it is in practice. The countries that harbor extraordinary biodiversity have an untapped potential for generating agroecotourism business around biodiversity-rich farms and forests. In addition, tour operators and farmers could be actively involved in the agroecotour in community forests, protected areas, organic villages and farms. Agroecotourism thus provides a strong economic incentive to small farmers to commit to biodiversity-friendly agriculture and forest management. In Nepal, for the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism, the need for diversification of tourism products is being felt in recent days and new tourist products are being introduced. Among different options of tourist products, agroecotourism is one of the most potential sectors in tourism of Nepal. Efforts and Achievements Academic Course Development for Higher Education In 2002, the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science of Tribhuvan University, Rampur realized the importance of integrating tourism in agricultural education in Nepal and incorporated in Higher Education Link Programme to design a course on tourism for master level. One of the author (first author) visited Writtle College, Uk to consult with experts and library and drafted a course on tourism (Dangol, 2002) which was discussed thoroughly in the meetings of the Subject Matter Committee. The Subject Matter Committee named this course as “agroecotourism”. The Faculty Board and TU Academic Council approved this course in 2003 for M. Sc. Ag as a course of Conservation Ecology program under the Department of Environmental Science (IAAS, 2006). Non-academic Training Course Development for Community People Executive director of Ecological Services Centre (ECOS) had realized the importance of agriecotourism training to the community people of the tourism promotion sites. He internalized “agroecotourism” in his organizational activities and designed a training course. Participation in Tourism Planning Meetings and Workshops Faculties and post-graduate students got opportunities to participate in a number of planning meetings and workshops organized by District Development Committee or District Tourism Committee or TRPAP in Chitwan. They contributed in preparing District Tourism Development and Management Plan for Chitwan district. Resource Persons for Training Faculties and students played their role as resource persons in a number of training programs either organized by Ecological Services Centre or National Trust for Nature Conservation. This gave opportunity to publicize and promote agroecotourism in some parts of Nepal. Educational Resources Introducing Agroecotourism, IAAS is getting opportunities to collect educational resources such as books, CDs and posters, especially from the TRPAP, Kathmandu. These resources are very valuable to teach students of agroecotourism. Capacity Building of Postgraduate Students Altogether 8 post-graduate students have already studied “Agroecotourism” course at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Rampur. They got opportunity to learn this course from the experts of Nepal Tourism Board, Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme and Kathmandu Academy of Tourism and Hospitality. Besides, students wrote term papers addressing different issues or problems
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PAPER
community level. Lessons Learned for Future Academic and training institutions need to develop a variety of capacity building training programs to train the faculties, staff and community people. Tourism related organizations need to initiate networking and partnership development for developing and promoting agroecotourism. IAAS is a focal organization for agroecotourism education in Nepal. It needs to create facilities like Visitor Information Centre, Museum, Organic Agriculture Park, gift shop, and reading resources to provide better services. To promote agroecotourism in Nepal, new potential destinations should be searched by stakeholders in different parts of Nepal. As this agroecotourism combines ecotourism and agrotourism, the tourists expect new tour activities. Thus, new package programs on agroecotourism suitable to national and international tourists should be developed and promoted through different means. As this agrotourism education and training is new. Quality research needs to be conducted in collaboration with governmental, non-governmental and community based organizations. Dharma Raj Dangol Associate Professor, Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal Basant Rana Bhat Ecological Services Centre, Chhetrapur, Narayangarh, Chitwan, Nepal

of the tourism. Capacity Building of Community People Forty-five community people were trained on ecological homestead design for agriecotourism promotion (NPG, 2005; ECOSCentre, 2005). The ECOSCentre conducted two training events, one at Kotbari of Lekhnath Municipality- 9, Kaski from 2nd – 8th Ashwin, 2062 and another at Krishnapur of Chitwan from 16-24 Mansir 2062. Altogether 19 participants (13 female and 6 male) at Kotbari and 27 (14 male and 13 female) from Shaktikhor VDC attended the events. ECOS organized these training events with the financial support of World Vision (Pokhara) and DDC/TRPAP, Chitwan. The participants learned the concepts from the experts of tourism, permaculture, horticulture, and development workers. Thesis Research Agricultural students are taking interest to study this course and conduct their thesis research on tourism. Two students of IAAS have already completed their thesis research on tourism (Maharjan, 2006c; Gupta,

2006). And one student of the academic year 2005-2007 had already written the thesis proposal on agrotourism (Devkota, 2006). These students got opportunities to contribute to add knowledge on tourism. Building Writing Capacity Besides thesis research and term paper writing, the faculties and students of the IAAS are building writing capacity. Their writing capacity created literature on tourism both in English (Dangol, 2006a; 2007abc; Maharjan, 2006ab; Maharjan et al., 2007) and Nepali languages (Dangol, 2005; 2006b; Maharjan, 2005) and Each article throws some messages that are related to the prospects or directions for developing and promoting agroecotourism or agrotourism in Nepal. Institutionalizing agroecotourism in the organizations Recently, Namsaling Community Development Centre, an NGO working in the eastern Nepal, has also incorporated agroecotourism in its organizational activities. This is very good indication of sustainable development of the discipline in the

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