Farm tourism seen as path to inclusive, sustainable agriculture

  • 10 December 2017

Source: BusinessMirror
10 Dec 2017

Farm tourism opens up a whole new perspective for inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) and provides hope for revitalizing the sector as a sunrise, if not a sunshine industry in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), gave this reflection as the center opened the five-day "Exposure Workshop on Farm Tourism Practices in Southeast Asia" on December 4 at the SEARCA headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna.

Designed as a platform where different stakeholders from the across the region may share, learn and update themselves on the varying states of and trends in farm tourism in Southeast Asia, the exposure workshop had participants representing six countries in the region—Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam—and Taiwan as represented by a resource person.

Saguiguit related SEARCA's efforts to establish a Southeast Asian AgriMuseum and Learning Center in Agricultural and Rural Development, saying that both initiatives place agriculture and its exciting prospects at center stage. This is toward the greater appreciation of agriculture, not just for the youth in their career choices but also for other important sectors and the general public as a whole.

At the grassroots level, Saguiguit said farm tourism is one pathway to ISARD, as it opens possibilities for diversification of income for small-scale farmers, while promoting sustainable agricultural systems and community involvement and participation. The Center also sees it as an effective means to showcase agriculture as a productive business endeavor, as well as an exciting field of study among young people.

SEARCA's workshop-organizing team recognized the strides made by the active farm-tourism industry in the Philippines, led by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and initiatives of the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST), both of which were tapped by SEARCA as knowledge partners in this event.

"These two institutions have been very busy making great progress in advancing farm tourism in the Philippines, along with partner agencies like the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Training Institute of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Department of Trade and Industry, with the active engagement of farm-tourism operators," Saguiguit noted.

He also acknowledged the Office of Sen. Cynthia A. Villar in guiding SEARCA's efforts in organizing the workshop. In 2016 the Philippines, with a push from the senator, signed into law the Farm Tourism Development Act, effectively institutionalizing the Philippine government's farm tourism programs in helping raise farmers' incomes and increase players in the rural tourism industry.

In 2012 SEARCA spearheaded the First Philippine National Agritourism Research Conference. It then aimed to identify research gaps and policy implications that can help develop agritourism in the country.

The exposure workshop featured presentations led by ISST President and former Tourism Secretary Dr. Mina T. Gabor, on global and regional trends in farm tourism; presentations by experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños; the DOT; Maejo University in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Chung Hsing University in Taiwan; various leaders and CEOs in farm-tourism practice in the Philippines and in Thailand, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture and agriculture consultants.