SUSTAINABLE LIVING AND TOURISM AT RAINFOREST RETREAT

SUSTAINABLE LIVING AND TOURISM AT RAINFOREST RETREAT

Madikeri, India
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

The RAINFOREST RETREAT (www.rainforestours.com) is a unique project that combines ecotourism with sustainable agriculture and environmental education. Our ecolodge is situated on a certified Organic Mojo Spice Farm in the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats of Karnataka and run by our environmental NGO, WAPRED, Worldwide Association for Preservation and Restoration of Ecological Diversity . We cater to environmentally conscious and intelectually curious travelers and families looking for a natural holiday experience. Special educational programs have been developed for students ( from primary school to University level, both from within India and overseas) and farmers groups that ...

About You
Contact Information
Title

Dr

First name

Sujata

Last name

Goel

Your job title

Proprietor

Name of your organization

Rainforest Retreat/ WAPRED

Organization type

NGO

Annual budget/currency

US $ 25000

Mailing address

Rainforest Retreat, P.O Box 101, Madikeri

Telephone number

91 8272 265636

Postal/Zip Code

571201

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

Rainforest Retreat, Galibeedu Village

City

Madikeri

State/Province

KARNATAKA

Postal/Zip Code

571201

Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

2000

Place your video embed code here from YouTube, Google Video and other video sharing websites. How to embed a video from YouTube.
Indicate sector in which you principally work

Nature, Culinary or agritourism, Education.

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Our goal has been to combine eco-tourism with organic agriculture and environmental education and demonstrate that tourism can be truly sustainable.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

The RAINFOREST RETREAT (www.rainforestours.com) is a unique project that combines ecotourism with sustainable agriculture and environmental education. Our ecolodge is situated on a certified Organic Mojo Spice Farm in the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats of Karnataka and run by our environmental NGO, WAPRED, Worldwide Association for Preservation and Restoration of Ecological Diversity . We cater to environmentally conscious and intelectually curious travelers and families looking for a natural holiday experience. Special educational programs have been developed for students ( from primary school to University level, both from within India and overseas) and farmers groups that emphasize sustainibility and biodiversity conservation. We rely on and promote alternate energy systems - photovoltaics are used extensively for electicity and meals are prepared using biogas. Locally grown Organic food is used as far as possible.
The Farm is densely forested, and located in one of the highest rainfall zones. While this environment places limitations on the croppng systems, it creates its own unique flavours which are reflected in the excellent quality of our organic products: cardamom, coffee, black pepper, vanilla, fruits and tree spices.
The Western Ghats of India are internationally recognized as one of the 18 Biodiversity hotspots in the world that need to be preserved. These shola-grassland ecosystems are unique and harbor a great diversity of flora and fauna not found elsewhere.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

Our approach is innovative because because we have enabled an enterpreneual venture combining education, fun and recreational activities, and organic farming, to exemplify that a sustainable lifestyle is possible. The proceeds from this Project fund activities of our NGO WAPRED which aims to promote ecological awareness and develop sustainable methods of agriculture for this unique environment.. Special educational programs have been developed for students ( from primary school to University level, both from within India and overseas) and farmers groups that emphasize sustainability and biodiversity conservation. We rely on and promote alternate energy systems - photovoltaics are used extensively for electicity and meals are prepared using biogas. Locally grown Organic food is used as far as possible.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Eco-tourism has become a misused catch word to promote many projects that are not at all sustainable and in fact have a very negative impact on the environment and community; the many resorts across the country are prime examples. Our project was initiated through our love and passion for nature and desire to help conserve it by raising awareness. This project has demonstrated that tourism can be sustainable. We can measure the impact on sustainability and enhancement of the environment by following the development of the local surroundings and our 25 acre farm. With the help of naturalist colleagues and friends we have been documenting the biodiversity here and we are seeing a definite increase in the numbers of amphibians, reptiles and even birds recorded here. The other way we can measure our success is through feedback from our guests and that has been very positive. Negative impacts are minimized by limited size, eco-friendly design and construction of the cottages, use of alternate energy, recycling of waste and total elimination of plastic bottled water.

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

Our project supports several local families through direct employment and other benefits such as medical and an education fund for their children. We encourage local families to grow organic vegetables and fruits and purchase them for the guest house. This district is dependant on subsistence agriculture and we have also created an association of local small farmers to help them convert to organic farming. There is still a lot of work required here.

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

Our unique and clean environment, sustainable living and organic farming and hospitality are the key to visitor enthuasism and satisfaction. The daily treks (with a trained guide) take in the rich diversity and beauty of this environment (dense rainforest, grasslands, idyllic valleys with small hamlets) and often include visits to other neighbouring farms. We have also found that by encouraging student and guest workshops on neighbouring farms, we are actually motivating the local farmers to go organic.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Building on our scienticic knowledge and backgrounds we have developed a very interactive guided tour of the plantation to show the methods being used to achieve sustainability and discussions range from rainforest ecosystems, economics of subsistence farming practices, gender issues, dangers posed by pesticides and GMO's, local challenges, use of alternate energy sources, and our personal stories. The daily treks (with a trained guide) involve introductions to the amazingly rich biological diversity of this area, (dense rainforest, grasslands, idyllic valleys with small hamlets) and often include visits to other neighbouring farms.

Sustainability
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.

We are completely self financed. proceeds from the eco- tourism are used to support the activities of our environmental NGO. Annual budget is approx US$ 25,000. Revenue is approx US$ 10,000. We employ 12 full time staff and 2 or 3 voluteers/ interns.

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

Yes, we are proud to be financially and organizationally self-sustainable. I think we have created a very good example of sustainable tourism and others can emulate this as a model system.

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

Getting good long term management from a qualified local person has been difficult. They are attracted to the lure of big cities. Lack of public awareness and government policies that promote completely unsustainable tourism and local politics are obstacles that we face.

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

Our aim is to set up a network with other like minded people from different parts of the world to create a platform for researchers, educators, students and farmers to hold small meeting and workshops to promote environmental awareness. Environmental education is the need of the hour in this country. We would also like other small ventures to follow our example so people are offered a sustainable choice instead of conventional resorts.

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

Dr ANURAG GOEL, Ph. D. Molecular biology, York University, Toronto, Canada.
Date of Birth: 12 April, 1959. Born in india and grown up in Canada, has lived and worked in Europe and India.
Dr Sujata Goel, Ph.D. Plant Biochemistry, University of Delhi, India. Grown up on a farm, worked in Research Institutes in India.
Date of Birth: 14 May, 1956

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

The WAPRED Research Foundation (Worldwide Association for Preservation and Restoration of Ecological Diversity) was founded in 1996 by Drs Sujata and Anurag Goel. Sujata has a PhD from the Department of Botany, Delhi University, and Anurag has grown up and completed his studies (PhD in Molecular Biology) in Toronto, Canada. Together, we left behind the frustrations of academic research and urban living to explore an organic way of life and a more harmonious existence with nature. After extensive travels throughout India, we chose the Kodagu District of Karnataka State (which lies in the heart of the Western Ghats) to establish a natural farm.
WAPRED was established in 1996 to raise environmental awareness and develop sustainable means of agriculture for this fragile environment. Initially, the major research project was to develop and field test botanically derived pest control agents and integrate them with both scientific and traditional methods of organic agriculture. We have since then been encouraging the local small and marginal farmers to adopt these sustainable techniques and we have formed an association of local growers (Galibeedu Organic Association). This project was selected for the First Prize Award from Ecoclub.com in 2005 and is being implemented by our NGO. The eco-tourism project was initiated in 2000 to achieve financial sustainability and is also implemented by WAPRED.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Our unique and green environment, sustainable living and organic farming and personalized hospitality are the key to visitor satisfaction. The daily treks (with a trained guide) take in the rich diversity and beauty of this environment (dense rainforest, grasslands, idyllic valleys with small hamlets) and often include visits to other neighbouring farms. We have developed a very interactive guided tour of the plantation to show the methods being used to achieve sustainability and discussions range from rainforest ecosystems, dangers posed by pesticides and GMO's, local challanges and our personal stories. We keep in touch with many of our guests long after they have left and we have many return visitors. Some of our close friends first came as guests to the Retreat.

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

We would like to set up a network with other like minded people from different parts of the country and the world to create a platform for researchers, educators, students and farmers to hold small meeting and workshops to promote environmental awareness. We would also like to see more travel agents focus on sustainable projects rather than luxury or mass tourism. We have been requested by the Shedd Museum in Chicago to donate a week's stay as a first prize for one of their Fund Raising Competitions. These kind of ventures and awards such as this one can help spread innovations such as ours.