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Tapola agro-tourism resort a boon to villagers

Six farmers living in far-flung villages around Mahabaleshwar, where electricity is still a luxury, set an example of determination and hard work and established an agro-tourism resort at Tapola, which is proving to be a success.

Ganesh Utekar, Ramesh Dhanawade, Siddharth Gayakwad, Sandeep Utekar, Nitin Gaykwad and Dipak Shinde share the responsibility of running each department and have opened up employment avenues for the locals.


The good life: Self-contained tents at the resort near the panoramic Koyna backwaters. Pic/Sukirt D Gumaste

IT majors take note
Recently, Infosys and Wipro organised a two-day conference at the Tapola agro-tourism resort.

The efforts of these entrepreneurs have been rocognised by the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and it is planning to invest Rs 35 lakh for up-gradation of the resort.

For the first time, NABARD is taking an initiative in a service-based business like agro-tourism. Under the Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programme (REDP), NABARD has provided hotel management training to these farmers and even helped them to make a detailed project report (DPR).

Beating the odds
“At the initial stage we did not have the money and the land, hence it was not possible to get a loan from any bank. Over 10 lakh tourists visit Tapola each year, but prefer to stay at Mahabaleshwar. It was tremendous opportunity to start a resort at Tapola. At the initial stage, the villagers were against us as they thought it would disturb the environment in our area.

With the help of NABARD, we prepared a DPR and convinced the villagers that it would help to generate employment opportunities,” Ganesh said.

He added that after hearing about the plan, Kisan Shinde (62), was impressed and leased the six men an acre of land for the resort, without charging any rent for the initial three years.

The Tapola agro-tourism resort offers staying facility at the self-contained tent situated at the panoramic Koyna backwaters and Sahyandri valley.

Along with delicious Maharashtrian fare, one can enjoy boating activities and adventure sports.

Dhanawade, who is in-charge of the water sports said the project is only growing.

Humble beginnings
“At the initial stage, we invested Rs 15,000 each. After getting the land, Mahabaleshwar Urban Bank loaned us Rs 3 lakh to buy tents. In the last two years, we have paid our debts and invested and additional Rs 1.5 lakh. Now our total infrastructure is valued at almost Rs 10 lakh. With NABARD’s help, additional facilities like recreation hall, indoor games, lawn, conference hall, additional tents and other facilities will be introduced soon,” Dhanawade said.

Utekar said that their initiative has brought a ray of hope to the villagers.

“We have generated employment in our villages, which is our biggest achievement. A total of 22 families are now dependent on our business” Ganesh said. 

 

Wave of change
The six entrepreneur-farmers have established the Mahabaleshwar Krushi Darshan Paryatan Seva Co-op Society with help from the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development and self-help groups. The group provides hotel management training to people below the poverty line and over 100 persons have been trained so far, of which 32 work at hotels in Mahabaleshwar. 

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