Eco-health farms: Creating alternatives to mass tourism

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

Eco-health farms: Creating alternatives to mass tourism

India
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The most important element of the EHF program is harmony between nature, the environment, and health in a traditional rural atmosphere- the integrated approach to nature, agriculture, and health, and its realization in practices such as the production of healthy food, provision of holistic health services, and exchange of knowledge.
It is an embodiment of a specialized quality that comes out in relations, in products, and in nature. It also embodies local particularities- preserving local traditions, way of life, and products. This all together forms an alternative to large-scale intensive agriculture and mass tourism.
By preserving national traditions, health maintenance services and showing how small, organic farms can successfully operate, this promotes the family farm model, and the conservation of the rural environmental and cultural heritage, which is increasingly threatened due to national and EU policies and mass culture

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Upmali Rendas pag

City

Kuldigas raj

State/Province
Postal/Zip Code

3319

Country
Year innovation began

2000

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality and distinctiveness of the destination

Place your video embed code here from YouTube, Google Video and other video sharing websites. How to embed a video from YouTube.

Paste your code here

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Conservation/Preservation organization

Geographic location

Rural, Suburban, Multiple locations.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Corporate monolithic approach to tourism

Main insight addressed

Establish community incentives

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

to achieve harmony between natural systems and human health by integration of ancestral traditions, nature protection and health prevention

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

- integration of nature friendly farming and living practices, what are this same time part of Latvian rural culture heritage endangered by today grading economical development.
EHFs are sustaining both – residents of local communities, benefiting from prophylactic health knowledge, services, organic products, job possibilities and inspiration - and national and international society - receiving high quality products, particular holidays allowing to sense beauty of longstanding nature friendly farm environment and health maintenance traditions.
EHF share not only knowledge and worldview of sustainable living, they demonstrate varied practices how to survive successfully with health tourism, organic farming and conservation of our beautiful nature. Many of the EHF received last years important state and NGO awards for outstanding results at nature protection, successful organic farming, implementation of new ideas and renovation of cultural heritage.
For example some EHF are producing and serving organic health food, making special traditional craft works or health products and after selling them to quests enjoying health services, herb gardens, nature trails and participating seminars at the farm.
Like at Maras and her husbands farm visitors can enjoy aromatherapy gardens, herb trails and health maintenance seminars with tea degustation, have a meal from organic produ

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

The innovation is the integrated approach to nature, agriculture, and health, and its realization in practices such as the production of healthy food, provision of holistic health services, and exchange of knowledge. It is also innovate in the way it has enabled us to create a spirit of solidarity in this post-Soviet era: we have developed strong cooperation among the farmers in the network. Guests and consumers of our products gain friends, health, nutrition, and new ideas at these farms. It is an embodiment of a specialized quality that comes out in relations, in products, and in nature. It also embodies local particularities- preserving local traditions, way of life, and products. This all together forms an alternative to large-scale intensive agriculture and mass tourism.
Farmers must realize the interconnectedness of everything- the manner in which respect for natural processes in the cultivation of fields and grazing of animals has a significant impact on the final quality of products. Eating these healthy foods and using natural herbal remedies enhances our health. These are the simple wisdoms of our ancestors that have disappeared both through the Soviet years and through today’s rushed lifestyles.

We are recuperating our ancestor’s knowledge, wisdom, and traditions, and enhancing these with knowledge from contemporary doctors and scientists both in Latvia

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

At the national level we need cooperation with health professionals, such as nutritionists, doctors who are open to change and understand the significance of prophylactic healthcare. Also with environmental specialists, who have been much more open to cooperation than doctors.
Cooperation has a mutual benefit- we gain from their professional depth of knowledge, and they gain an understanding about the effects of organic produce and herbal remedies, sometimes incorporating some of our methods into their practices.

We have also need continuing cooperation with municipal governments and inhabitants. They are particularly receptive to our ideas, because they need them most to compensate f

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Ecohealth farms raise awareness of the fundamental relationship between natural systems and human health, and realize this connection in practice.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

The EHF network has grown to 50 farms, many of which work with close to 1000 guests per season. These are farms that are conserving nature, implementing alternative resource-saving technologies, and using organic farming practices. A the same time they are demonstration, tourism, and education farms that are promoting environmental sustainability, and sharing their experience to neighboring farmers. The educational work is providing society with motivation to choose organic products, start their own health gardens, use medicinal herbs, take care of their health, and in general choose healthier, more natural lifestyles.

By preserving national traditions and showing how small, organic farms can successfully operate, this promotes the family farm model, and the conservation of the rural environmental and cultural heritage, which is increasingly threatened due to national and EU policies and mass culture.

We fill an educational gap in public health knowledge that has been left due to problems of accessibility to official medicine and lack of education opportunities.

The success of the EHF initiative is not measurable in the number of farms or the amount of produce. Rather, the success of this program lies in each farmer’s spiritual growth in knowledge, understanding, and professional skills, and each individual farm’s transformation into a center of environmental and he

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

The most important element of the EHF program is harmony between nature, the environment, and health in a traditional rural atmosphere. It is for those travelers who want an unadulterated, natural rural setting, where cows graze and are milked and medicinal herbs are dried right next to the guest house. It is a unique opportunity to receive specialized services, products and personalized attention from knowledgeable farmers, regardless of whether you have arrived with a tour group only for a two-hour walk through a blooming herb garden or come for a relaxing weekend for two in a 200-year-old sauna house.
And probable it will be an inspiration to sense and realize Nature and humanity values as higher importance – this is our aim, what we expect to change the world !

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Local residents and municipal governments are very directly involved in public outreach activities such as seminars, private consultations, and in following the examples they see on our farms. Local residents use the health services and consultations offered by our traditional healers, doctors, masseuses, herbal sauna and medicinal plant specialists. The EHFs work actively with schools, providing healthy products and educating local children. EHFs help shape a new worldview not only within their own families but also for local residents. Local municipalities value the work done by EHFs, and often use them as venues for their own events. They help implement projects and spread the word a

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

Every EHF offers tourists a comprehensive understanding about the local natural and cultural heritage, because these are family farms with histories that stretch back several generations.
The farmers can reach out to their guests through their own example of sustainable living, allowing gests to become acquainted with natural processes, experience specialized treatments and products, and understand the essence of organic agriculture. For example, in one farm, the farmer milks cows, makes fresh traditional meals, grows strawberries, and offers herbal sauna treatments. Yet she is also a trained music teacher, and engages guests in “musical therapy,” sharing local folk traditions.

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

The initiative is sustainable because we have formed an official EHF organization that works as an independent NGO and as an active member of the Latvian Organic Agriculture Association (LBLA).

The 50- member EHF network has developed its own accountability and management system which is not dependent on state bureaucratic procedures or funding. The main element of sustainability comes from the close cooperation and trust among the member farms, that form a strong team of environmentally oriented and creative people.

Replicability is facilitated by the fact that all activities- seminars and courses are open to the public, thus attracting new interested farms.
The active experience exc

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The EHF initative was first supported for two years through the Ashoka fellowship, and various other grants.

The EHF leadership and new 7- member board has worked on a volunteer-basis for the past five years. Since the founding of the EHF network as an NGO last year, the income consists of membership fees ($1200/ year), and international grants, such as a project with Friends of the Earth Latvia ($20,000). Members have financed their own educational seminars and trips abroad in the amount of $35,000. Because all of the EH farms are individual businesses, this is where most of the activities- provision of products and services happens- and these are not considered part of the organizational budget.

The only paid employee is a part-time accountant. We do not have official office space, but can utilize some resources from the LBLA of which we are a member.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

The main goal is not the expansion of the number of farms, but rather the qualitative growth of the program – by developing the educational program, the quality of products and services, and farms as guest centers.

The broader dissemination of the idea will come with greater involvement of doctors, environmental activists and youth. It would be useful to develop an international network of similar movements. We already cooperate with groups from Poland, Lithuania and Germany, who have similar farms but have not developed similar educational programs.

The best guarantee for a successful development is our internal accountability system, democratic governance institution and self-devel

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

The main barrier is the necessity for all involved to have an environmental consciousness, because this is easier for some than others. It is an ambitious project and we have set very high criteria for ourselves.

External barriers include:
- the priority given by politicians and society to superficial economic issues over deeper humanitarian values;
- the tendency of EU policies to bureaucratize and oversimplify rural development and land management, resulting in losses to biodiversity and environmental integrity;
- division of labor among ministries results in lack of a holistic and integrated policy approach;
- national policies and practices favor large producers;
- the power of the pharmaceutical, biomedical and conventional agricultural lobbies;
- lack of young farmers who are dedicated to creating such diverse and specialized farms;
- difficulty in finding qualified lecturers for the education program.

Groups interested in starting similar programs in other countries should realize that it is not easy- it takes a lot of conviction, motivation, and diverse experience on the part of the organizers!

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

In 1987 my husband and I joined other like-minded people to found the local chapter of the Latvian Popular Front to organize people to fight for Latvia’s independence, and became actively involved in politics. After Latvia’s independence from the Soviet Union we started our farm. In 1989 we regained our land from the State collectivized farm or kolhoz. We began farming with one cow, three children, and no money. We did not have the equipment and livestock that had been taken from the farm back in 1949. We decided to farm with biodynamic methods that colleagues from Germany helped us learn, together with doctors who introduced us to the anthroposophist medicine and the foundations of healthy eating. We organized seminars four residents of our village, and farmers from far and wide. We founded and led an organic farming organization, and then together with like-minded friends also the Latvian Organic Agriculture Association.
These things together formed my worldview- the democracy and idealism of the Latvian Popular Front combined with the nature and high quality agriculture as a way of life through nutrition, plants, and traditional healing practices which we learned from my husband’s mother and other country people.
Eventually, however, the heavy workload, stress, and poor nutrition combined with a flu and I was ill for several years. Medicine could not help. Then I started working with natural healing practices and healthy food and was gradually able to cure myself and our children. Everything that I learned became the foundation of our new work and way of life. We organized eco and health camps, seminars, and started offering natural and herbal treatments, started our own medicinal herb garden, and our own healthy food and herbal teas.
In 2000 we started forming an interest group with others who cared about the integration of environmental protection, health, and organic farming.
We developed a tourism and health program within LBLA, which became the Eco Health Farm Network NGO on 2006. According to our statutes, members farms organically, learn about natural processes, natural and medicinal healing practices, form a sustainable and organized farm, produce healthy food, and offer various services. The obligation is not only to do good, but also to talk about it, to educate society and share your knowledge.
Ashoka helped the process along, because as a fellow I received financial support that allowed me to free time for forming this movement. And it happened. I hope our idea will thrive elsewhere as well, because society needs farms like these!

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Mara Bergmane was born in 1951 in Latvia, in the village of Dundaga, and at age 11 moved to the city of Ventspils, where she attended high school, played sports, and was an avid nature lover. She has studied culture and library science from the Riga Cultural Workers Technical School and History at the University of Latvia. She worked as a history teacher, the director of the Renda Cultural Center, director of the Renda Popular Front, a regional elected deputy. She began also farming in the 1987s, and has adopted organic and biodynamic farming ,
health maintenance methods. Organized regional organic farming group, environment protection club and join organization of national organic farmi

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

The most important element of the EHF program is harmony between nature, the environment, and health in a traditional rural atmosphere- the integrated approach to nature, agriculture, and health, and its realization in practices such as the production of healthy food, provision of holistic health services, and exchange of knowledge.
It is an embodiment of a specialized quality that comes out in relations, in products, and in nature. It also embodies local particularities- preserving local traditions, way of life, and products. This all together forms an alternative to large-scale intensive agriculture and mass tourism.
By preserving national traditions, health maintenance services and showing how small, organic farms can successfully operate, this promotes the family farm model, and the conservation of the rural environmental and cultural heritage, which is increasingly threatened due to national and EU policies and mass culture

randomness