Sunday, 25 September 2022

In Leisure

Agritourism Growth in East Africa

The East African region is home to several global travel destinations such as Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Lake Victoria; and leading agricultural produce such as Coffee, Tea, Fruits, Flowers, and more. All combined create a good base for Agritourism, one of the fastest growing leisure industries in world, valued at US$42 Billion.


Agritourism involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch for direct-to-consumer sales, agricultural education, hospitality, recreation, and entertainment. Most agritourists spend time visiting farm stands, picking fruit, or feeding animals; others may navigate a corn maze or do a farm stay, assisting with chores or agricultural or ranch work. 


Most of the big names in the tourism industry are investing in agritourism. This is mainly due to the growing interest in a new generation of agricultural activities, which require knowledge as well as entertainment. Educational tourism is one of the segments of agritourism that provides knowledge of various activities related to daily agricultural activities. 


Activities range from cultivation to harvesting. In this form of agritourism, people actually experience farming activities with the farmers. Educational agritourism is gaining importance through a variety of agricultural and non-agricultural educational institutions and may maintain its importance over the forecast period. This is mainly due to the increase in enrolment in agricultural vocational training.


According to Ebenezer Elder Treks, a destinations management company in Kampala, Uganda, Agritourism is a great tourism potential in Eastern Africa (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. It is one of the major tourism potentials in Uganda. It is increasingly gaining ground as an alternative form of tourism and it emphasises responsible travel and protecting of the environment. 


Agritourism packages in Eastern Africa provide you opportunities to visit the coffee fields, Banana plantations in Uganda and sugar belts of western Kenya. The cashew nuts and palm trees at the coast of Kenya and Tanzania to the flower and the tea farms in Naivasha and Kericho in Kenya. 


You can also visit the diary in Limuru, the Masai cattle in the Masai land, the long horned Ankole in Uganda, the camels and goats in the Northern Kenya, the fish farms in central Kenya and the local traditional cattle in the Luo land a lot to the Agricultural industry in East Africa. Tourist will visit places where they not only see the farming practices but also have a chance to participate in the real activities such as milking the cows, picking the coffee/tea, taking the tea/coffee to the factory among other experiential tours.


Agricultural tourism has become a necessary tool for many smallholders to survive. By diversifying the business, farmers can secure more stable income. This is because agritourism activities can occur during non-harvest seasons and provide a completely separate source of income. According to some studies, agritourism businesses often benefit the surrounding communities by attracting tourists to the area. The economic boost of increased traffic can benefit rural areas that depend on diverse sources of income.


Globally, the agritourism market size was valued at $ 42,460.3 million in 2019, and is estimated to reach $ 62,982.6 million by 2027, registering a CAGR of 13.4% from 2021 to 2027. Taiwan, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Hawaii, Grenada, United States, Philippines, and China are amongst some of the leading countries in Agritourism in the world. Agritourism is one of such ways opening new door for tourism where people can experience farm activities, rural lifestyle, green peace ambiance, which people cannot find it easily in urban areas.  


Agritourism is gaining major traction in the farmer community as it not only provides additional income to the farmers along with their farm production activities but also better sustainability. It has immense potential to provide good business to the farmers as it is cost-effective, demand for family-oriented recreation environment, and growing curiosity regarding farm activities in young minds. 


According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel and tourism is a $1,036 billion industry in the United States that has directly generated more than 8.8 million jobs. The U.S. travel industry ranks as the seventh largest employer and among the top 10 industries in 49 states, including the District of Columbia, when measured by employment. Travel and tourism generate $165 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments, with the restaurant industry accounting for the majority of this economic activity.


Agritourism is niche and emerging market segment of the tourism industry and it has been gaining major traction in the urban areas. This is majorly attributed to growing demand for farm stays and rising curiosity about the rural and farm activities in young minds. Travel agents in Agritourism are playing very crucial role in marketing and selling of the Agritourism packages as people hardly know about the Agritourism, ecotourism, and related concepts. It is unexplored sector of the tourism industry, most of the people may have experienced the farm stays and farm activities but they unaware that it is Agritourism. Travel agents not only provide holyday packages but also create awareness about Agritourism concepts, which is likely to escalate the growth of the market during the forecast period.


According to Xinhua News, as the pandemic continues hampering international tourism, more Kenyans became keen on local agritourism, visiting the unending stretches of tea plantations dominate the landscape of Limuru town, some 30 km away from the Kenyan capital city, Nairobi. In it sits an expansive 40-acre farmhouse that has roared back to life to allow visitors to sample its exciting ventures, following months of reduced activity due to the global pandemic. 


The vast farmhouse came into existence in 1992 with the intent of producing fresh vegetables for commercial purposes. In the ensuing years, it expanded in size to create room for large swaths of tea plantations, a forest cover, shelter for animals such as cows, donkeys, horses, and accommodation. The expansion allowed it to adopt a concept of allowing guests to visit the farm to enjoy its offerings – agritourism. The manager asserted that business is improving, remaining coy about the average earnings from tourists since some COVID-19 restrictive measures were lifted early this year.


The Kenya Tourism Board, the marketing arm of the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism, has also launched promotional programmes to launch agrotourism, with tea, coffee and flowers as excellences to be shown on farm tours, reported. "Agritourism can be a long-term strategy for Kenya as a destination," said KTB secretary Allan Njoroge, "we want both local and international tourists to have options for different experiences when they visit our country. That is why we are ready to offer assistance to farms that have not yet developed this product."


Agritourism business models being adopted in many parts of Africa are inspired by South African farms, that already offer them, and have engaged their tourism boards to be included as major players in Tourism, as destinations for local and international visitors. 


Imla Farm is one such player in South Africa. Imla Farm, in the Free State province of South Africa, offers Agritourism services, over and above their various farming activities for an international audience.


On the benefits of Agritourism, Imla Farm published "one of the best ways to empower smallholder farmers is to incorporate the farmers into an agritourism route, thereby opening doors to a potential tourism market which can help keep their farming sustainable. To a certain extent, agritourism allows these farmers to diversity, mitigating the effects of climate change and other risk factors; Working together creates an opportunity to share information and strengthen communities so as to facilitate a sustainable future which allows for additional income sources for farmers". 


Imla Farm has a clear inclusivity approach to agritourism, that benefits all stakeholders.


There is vast potential in Agritourism in East Africa, and it must be explored by smallholder farms, as it must by larger farms. According to a report published by Kenya's tourism Board, the country has a niche of profitable agrotourism. "There is vast potential for agritourism in Kenya, with the country's many small farms offering valuable additional income for farmers," Kenya's Tourism Board said in a statement. 


In some countries like Ethiopia for example, there are very few opportunities for farmers to get out of poverty unless they enter or provide products and services that attract people from outside the rural areas. In Ethiopia there are more than 29 million hectares of land being cultivated in small scale, mainly by subsistence farmers and communities.


East Africa, as with many other African regions, must take advantage of the Agritourism opportunities and tap into this billion-dollar industry that is growing rapidly. 


Besides, Coffee is native to East Africa, and that story is worth billions of agritourism receipts for all nations involved. 


Sources: Ebenezer Elder Trekks, USDA, Imla Farm, Xinhua, AGMRC


Cabanga Media Group publishes of thoughtful economic and business commentary magazines and online media, in several African markets, that include South Africa, Botswana, East Africa Community, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Zambia.