By Anuska Joshi
Boastful of its natural beauty, Nepal claims a dynamic range of landscape and topography, with mountainous terrain in the north to flat plains in the south and between them the mighty hills of the Mahabharat range. And, all this topographical diversity within the short distance of 150-250 kms houses a wide range of flora and fauna and diverse landscapes.
To our country, Nepal, topographical diversity is an asset not only to its array of biodiversity and culture but also to its two major economic sectors: agriculture and tourism. The agricultural produce within the country differs widely between different geographical areas and so does the tourism activities. However, the dependence on these two sectors are the same.
So, how much of a foe or a friend are they to each other?
The interdependence between tourism and agriculture is indisputable. The agricultural produces are food resources not only for the residents but for the tourists as well. In some areas, agriculture has even become a point of attraction for tourism activities. We can even take the instance of countries of South-East Asia. The rice fields in those region attracts huge number of tourists each year.
Nepal has a huge potential in it too. For example, in the southern part of Nepal, the flat plains of terai have scenic fields and the hilly region of Nepal provides spectacular scenes with its terraced farming. Illam, a district in the province no. 1 and hilly region of Nepal is already quite famous for its tea farming and attracts tourists for sightseeing as well as sips of tea.
Touristic inflow in such places also creates a market for the areas’ produces. The mountainous Mustang district is famous for its apples and it has been attracting tourists for the tasting and sells lots of apple products to them. Arts and crafts made from hemp are also popular among the tourists visiting Nepal. Therefore, when taken together, there seems to be a very intricate relation between tourism and agriculture of a place.
However, there are also obstacles from one to another in the case of these two sectors. Tourism can sometimes have a very high demand for food, and even of specific types, which can pose a threat to the local agricultural scenario. Also, the food required by the tourists might be different than what the locals produce, demanding its export from somewhere else, or changing the agriculture type in the place. Eating habits differ according to the culture and it makes anyone hesitant to adapt to the local food and taste.
Nepal is also trying to boost the indigenous foods of Nepal to the visitors, as a way to attract tourists and promote food tourism. When there is demand for food from the tourism sector, then it can help in boosting the local economy, but in some cases, it can also disrupt the traditional agriculture practices.
Also quite obvious, building large infrastructures and hotels and resorts for tourism can take up the land and its original practices too. Tourism in some cases will also be an alternative income-generating activity for the local people. For instance, most people in Lukla are opting for tourism as an income-generating activity rather than farming, as it is considered an easier job compared to the difficult fieldwork associated with agriculture and also brings higher income.
On the other hand, agriculture can also pose a threat to the tourism industry due to the lack of necessary resources. Sometimes, the diseases and pests from the crops and vegetables might also disrupt the local ecosystem, disrupting the touristic activities. A very recent case in Western Cape saw the disruption of agriculture and tourism activities because of tree-killing beetles since the year before.
There is a lot of synergy between the two sectors, however, the precise dependable correlation between the two is also quite difficult to pinpoint. This complex interrelationship depends very much on the particular area and economic activities of the people. For example, the tourism of any place might be heavily dependent only on the wildlife whereas the agriculture of that place can be of the subsistence type.
Lejarraja and Walkenhorst, in their report “Diversification by deepening linkages with tourism” pointed out that, taking tourism and agriculture together can help to boost the economy, especially for the developing nations. So, the positive interrelationship between these two sectors can help in income-generating activities of the people, as long as the obstacles are appropriately tackled.