Sustainability: Taking the road less traveled
‘There is now nothing here, sir. The young don’t want to do farming. They have left for the cities to look for jobs. If they had stayed on and look at other traditional occupation, then our village wouldn’t be so empty.” Mohan Lal Joshi, narrated in Garhwali the sad state of affairs in his village, a small hamlet near Gangotri, the origin of the Holy Ganges.
Just a few hundred miles away eastward in the same state of Uttarakhand, Prakash Bisht was upbeat. He excitedly revealed his plans on how to generate extra income beyond the usual one from agriculture through tourism. “I am building a homestay in my house, to give a complete local village experience to the guests. And while the guests are here as part of the experience they might buy locally produced goods – organic herbs, fruits, handicrafts etc. This will also help generate extra income.” We are lucky to be in a state nestled in the Himalayas, with abundant natural beauty, history and culture, where there will be no dearth of tourists.” He added.
My passion for travel has taken me far away in different places in India and abroad, and has exposed me to the different cultures locally. I had met Joshi and Bisht at two different occasions while trekking in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. However, I felt that I had met them many times in various places in different guises – the carpet seller in Cappadocia, Turkey talking about the ancient art of making silk, or the Incan woman in Cuzco, Peru trying to explain the health benefits of Quinoa seeds and the art of natural dyeing from local plants, or the flamenco dancer in Seville, Spain telling a story of how this traditional dance form came into being through the Gypsies, the original travelers.
There is a common link between all of them. Each of them are trying to earn a living through traditional ways using local means, produce or art form, which incidentally is a great experience for any traveler.
A closer look at the secondary research reveals that the unorganized local handicrafts and cottage industry is the second largest employer (after agriculture) esp. in India. With people traveling more than before there is that huge untapped market comprising of these travelers who also provide the best form of marketing – word of mouth.
Thus, there exists a huge economic opportunity to drive demand for this sector through an experiential travel ecosystem. This would eventually encourage local livelihoods, protect environment and preserve culture & way of life.
It is sustainability at its best.
It is a gargantuan task. However, such scale and disruption is not unheard of. Brands like Amul, Fabindia, Anokhi with unique business models have achieved success over the years integrating with the unorganized rural & traditional economy creating both financial & social impact.
Rustik Travel is one such organization that has just started on a similar journey to build a sustainable experiential travel ecosystem engaging the local communities.
The start has been good. The disruption is inevitable. However, to reach the scale it could do much with the help of like-minded people to collaborate, spread the word or just be responsible travelers.
Founder, Rustik Travel