Thekkady

The first SLRTC meeting held on 21st April 2007 decided to take up Thekkady as a destination to implement RT concepts. The first meeting towards this was held on 23rd June 2007 at Thekkady. A Destination Level RT Committee was formed in this meeting along with the three working groups in economic, environmental and social areas. The DLRTC met on 7th Sept, 25th Sept and 26th Nov 2007 before the formal inauguration of RT in Thekkady on 14th December 2008. On the same day 18 hotels agreed to participate in the RT movement and signed agreements for the purchase of vegetables locally.

The sources of information at Thekkady are given in Appendix 3.1.

The overall implementation of RT in Thekkady cannot be termed as successful as opined by the former Panchayat President. The coordination between RT Cell at Thekkady and Kudumbasree was weak and this is quoted as a reason for the failure in the implementation of RT in Thekkady.

1. RT related structure
  1. SLRTC

  2. The Panchayat President of Kumily was a member of the State Level RT Committee. As one of the most premier and fragile destinations in the State, intervention of the local self government in resolving the issues related to tourism was in practice even before the formation of SLRTC. Thus Thekkady could easily become the frontrunner in RT implementation. But as remarked by the President of Kumily Panchayat, priorities at Panchayat level are for other sectors, and the progress made in RT implementation in the beginning could not be maintained at Thekkady.

  3. Destination Level RT Committee

  4. The structure of DLRTC at Thekkady is more or less the same as in other destinations. Representation of the trading community in DLRTC is only seen in Thekkady. The 2nd SLRTC meeting decided to formulate the guidelines for the functioning of DLRTCs. Even before the sub-committee met for forming the guidelines, DLRTC meeting was held at Thekkady. Besides the main body of DLRTC, sub-committees including an Executive Committee of DLRTC also took decisions. Five meetings of DLRTC were held since the introduction of RT in Thekkady as mentioned by a member of DLRTC.

  5. Working Groups

  6. Like in other destinations, working group in the three responsibility areas was also formed in Thekkady.

  7. Technical support cell

  8. The RT technical support cell, as in other destinations, was to coordinate the RT implementation and encourage the stake holders for the successful1 implementation. RT Cell organized a meeting of the farmers in the beginning and initiated actions to increase vegetable production. The cell contacted 18 hotels and resorts and collected their requirements of vegetables, fruits, milk, egg etc.

    As per a decision of the joint meeting of Kudumbasree, Panchayat, RT Cell and Tourism Department, the RT Cell was entrusted with the social and environmental responsibilities.

    One of the initiatives of the RT Cell was to tap employment opportunities for local residents in tourism industry. The cell could find an opportunity to engage five women in Club Mahindra Resort to run "Kerala Tea Shop". The working time was fixed from 3 PM to 6 PM. But due to lack of support from the guests of the resort, the venture was discontinued.

    The former Panchayat President did mention about the lack of coordination between RT Cell and Kudumbasree. Some of the DLRTC members have blamed the RT Cell coordinator for approaching the RT implementation with the motive of personal benefits.

    1. Report on Responsible Tourism - Phase I, Thekkady, GITPAC-RT Technical Unit, June 2010

  9. Price fixing Committee

  10. A Price Fixing Committee was formed in January 2009. The first meeting of the Committee was attended by representatives of 16 hotels and fixed the prices of vegetable items for supply in January 2009. The second meeting was held on 16th Feb 2009 and fixed the prices of 34 items of vegetables for supply in February 2009.

    As remarked by Samrudhi members, Price fixing Committee has helped to arrive at a consensus price for the products from Samrudhi. Due to the nearness of large scale markets like Kambam across the Tamil Nadu border, and because of shortage of locally grown vegetables, the prices of vegetables showed a tendency to fluctuate more often.

  11. Samrudhi Group

  12. The Samrudhi group was organized jointly by Kudumbasree and CDS with five members - three women and two men. The group got the financial assistance of SBT Kumily. The status of the loan is not verified. But according to Smt. Kunjumol, Vice President of Kumili Grama Panchayat, and Smt. Sheeba Suresh, a member of the Grama Panchayat, the loan availed from SBT was diverted to personal needs by the members of Samrudhi group and about 70% of the loan remains to be repaid.

    The Samrudhi shop was opened near the bus stand on 6th Nov 2008. Two rooms were given to Samrudhi by the Panchayat free of rent. The group collected the list of vegetables and crops available with the farmers.

    Samrudhi group started collecting vegetables from neighbouring Panchayats to

    meet the demand in February 2009. The group collected vegetables from farmers'

    market at Kamashy and Eratayar. Samrudhi continued to source vegetables from open market in March and April due to lack of vegetable cultivation in Kumily. Because sourcing of vegetables from open market was against the concept of RT, DoT intervened and suggested to stop such supplies temporarily.
    Later in November 2009, it was decided to re-open the Samrudhi shop after its closure in June 2009. But the competition from the markets in Tamil Nadu and lack of supply of vegetables locally produced continued. An attempt was made to overcome the shortage of vegetables with items like rice flour, wheat powder and pickles, and by sourcing products from Kudumbasree units outside Kumily. This attempt was not fully successful1. Out of the five members, three have discontinued and only two male members are managing the activities now.

    Samrudhi ensured quality of the items supplied to hotels. The main items supplied to hotels were amaranthus, plantain products, curry powder, rice flour and coconuts. The present supply is limited to two or three hotels. The group faced shortage of funds for its operation mainly because of the 30 to 40 days credit period given to the hotels.

  13. Farmers' group

  14. The RT Cell organized a meeting of the farmers in 17 wards of Kumily Grama Panchayat. Kudumbasree members and Agricultural Officer participated in the meeting and planned to increase the production of vegetables. Out of the 826 farmers participated in the meet, 30 farmers who were engaged in vegetable cultivation were identified. The meet decided to start organic farming. A project was prepared by the Panchayat for the distribution of seeds and manure to farmers. In spite of all these efforts, vegetable supplies to hotels had to discontinue due to lack of production. Though decisions were taken at various levels to increase vegetable cultivation, the implementation of the decisions failed to a great extent.
2. Robustness of the relationships

As in other destinations, Kudumbasree was the main implementing force for RT in Thekkady. It is clear from the remarks of former Panchayat President that the implementation lacked coordination between Kudumbasree and RT Cell. As mentioned by two women members of the Panchayat, there used to be occasional clashes between former Panchayat Committee and Kudumbasree.

A general suggestion that came up during the discussions held with those who participated in the RT implementation was to make the new members of the Panchayat Samithi aware of RT concept. Awareness training of Kudumbasree members would help in establishing a production system as part of the economic responsibility.

The dependence of Kudumbasree units is also said to be a reason for the success as well as failure in implementation of RT initiatives. When CDS faced some problem due to non-auditing of its accounts, the Kudumbasree units under it also were affected.

3. Ownership by the local body

On the whole, the Panchayat has supported the implementation of RT in Thekkady. The Panchayat allotted a two-room space for the Samrudhi group near the bus stand free of rent. But not all decisions taken in DLRTC were implemented. Among the several initiatives, the Panchayat prepared a project to support organic farming by farmers in Kumily and supply seeds and manure to farmers. However, there was no increase in farming and the Samrudhi group could not supply the items needed by the hotels from the locally produced products.

A joint meeting of Kudumbasree, RT Cell, Tourism Department and the Panchayat reviewed the activities of RT. The meeting decided to entrust the responsibility of economic activities with Kudumbasree. The RT Cell was entrusted with the social and environmental responsibilities. The Panchayat is seen to take the leadership in resolving some of the issues through this decision. But at the same time, a drift between the implementing agencies is visible.

Since the formation of new Panchayat Samithi, no meeting is held to discuss RT. But the general feeling as expressed by the new Panchayat President is to take the RT concept forward. The new Panchayat has constituted a working group for tourism development in Thekkady.

4. Ownership by industry

In the beginning, 18 hotels and resorts gave their requirements of vegetables, fruits, milk, egg etc. to RT Cell. On the inauguration day of RT in Thekkady, the 18 hotels came forward and agreed to participate in the RT movement. They signed a MoU to purchase vegetables locally.

Thekkady has 27 hotels and resorts, 45 home stays and 16 other accommodation units. All these together provide 1052 rooms of various types2.

Representatives of 16 hotels participated in the meeting of the Price Fixing Committee held in January 2009. Eight hotels started purchasing available vegetables, fruits and tender coconuts from Samrudhi shop. Though willingness for sourcing the purchases was expressed, even those who actually participated in the beginning discontinued due to various reasons including lack of supply from Samrudhi group. Sales to hotels during the first half of 2009 are given in Table 5-1.

Table 5-1: Sales through Samrudhi during the first half of 2009
Name of Hotel / Resort Jan-09 Feb-09 Mar-09 Apr-09 May-09 Jun-09
Spice Village
7305
8503
5554
4033
Shalimar Spice Garden
6626
10543
11390
6743
5287
2110
Aranya Nivas
6239
7864
42882
26796
61193
33330
Kondody Greenwoods Hotel
3600
5842
6795
6423
21484
9919
Periyar House
3267
6839
9369
3805
Club Mahindra Resort
2822
8667
21823
16621
56581
18827
Tree Top Resort
1136
2608
Muthoot Cardamom County
254
1011
1337
Lake Palace
3999
7940
8251
Elephant Court Resort
1352
Total
31249
51877
100502
64387
156518
72437

Note: The figures for January, March, April and June vary within the same source of information
Source: Report on Responsible Tourism - Phase I, Thekkady, GITPAC-RT Technical Unit, June 2010

2. Report on Responsible Tourism, Phase I, Thekkady, GITPAC-RT Technical Unit, June 2010

5. Benefits of the local community

The local community is benefitted with the transfer of knowledge and capacity building exercises targeted at those in the primary sector. As part of the RT, a training programme was conducted in the 17 wards of Kumily to enable the farmers in organic farming. Members of Kudumbasree units attended a training on the technical aspects of bee-keeping.

The RT initiative in Thekkady organized a health and sanitation awareness programme for the residents in two wards as an effort to upgrade and maintain the quality of environment.

A package tour to experience the village life was launched in the destination. This package was made with 13 activities that involved the members of the local community.

Because of RT, the number of Kudumbasree units in Thekkady increased by 46. These new units included a nutrient unit for anganwadis, a flour unit, few sweet units and vegetable units. Out of these, 14 units are functioning properly now.

RT has helped Kudumbasree unit that produced eco-friendly bags to sell their products to hotels. Out of three such units that existed in the destination, one is functional now. The main problem faced by the existing unit is lack of demand. RT also has helped handicraft units. Handicraft products supplied to hotels were models of houses, jug, tea tray and coconut shell clips. A laundry unit is formed after the initiation of RT in Kumily. The unit has taken up contract works for two to three resorts. The hotels and resorts have engaged local residents for cleaning and gardening related works.

6. Gender aspects

Thekkady has 512 neighborhood groups, which indicate the possibility of ventures like farming and dairy productions. But this could not be realized due to lack of coordination as alleged by the members of the Panchayat. However, it is admitted that the local community, especially women, became aware of tourism and in particular RT. Meetings of the neighborhood groups were held to create awareness on RT practices.

In other destinations, the Samrudhi group gave opportunities to women to be part of the economic activities. Because the economic responsibility activities in Thekkady did not succeed, the three women members of Samrudhi Group discontinued from its activities.Few of the Kudumbasree units benefitted because of RT. About four units that make curry powder, rice flour and food items like snacks have generated surplus income. These units are supplying their products directly to hotels.

In general, it cannot be said that RT initiatives in Thekkady has benefitted women except one or two instances mentioned above.

7. Production system

The meeting of the farmers during the initial days organized by the RT Cell decided to start organic farming. A project was prepared by the Panchayat to distribute seeds and manure to farmers. Farmers and Kudumbasree units started supplying the items to Samrudhi and the sales to the hotels thorugh Samrudhi started in January 2009. The production was insufficient to meet the demand of hotels in Feb 2009. So Samrudhi sourced vegetables from markets outside Kumily to meet the demand.

Cultivation of vegetables by the farmers is seasonal. The preference of farmers was to cultivate cash crops that give better revenue compared to vegetables. Kudumbasree units also did not engage much in cultivating vegetables. Due to lack of vegetable cultivation in Kumily, the local production and procurement was low in March and April 2009. Hence, Samrudhi continued to source the vegetables from open market.

Soil conditions of two tribal settlements near Thekkady, Mannakudi and Malayakudi, are good for farming. Because of animals destroying the crops, farming is not done here now. About six units here are engaged in vegetable farming, handicraft making from coconut shells, papad making and goat rearing. The handicrafts are sold to Kashmiri stalls in Kumily.

Suitability and popularity of cash crops that gives better income is one reason for the farmers not to take up vegetable farming. Scarcity of water is another problem cited by farmers. However, RT has helped to generate interest in farming activities, according to the farmers.

8. Collection and supply mechanism

Samrudhi group started by preparing a list of vegetables and crops available with the farmers. The group started their supply to hotels in January 2009. Eight hotels in Kumily started purchasing vegetables, fruits and tender coconuts from Samrudhi.

In February 2009, the demand for supplying to hotels was high and the sourcing of vegetables locally was insufficient to meet the demand. So Samrudhi started collecting vegetables from neighbouring Panchayats and from farmers' markets at Kamashy and Eratayar. Shortage in supply of locally produced vegetables continued in the months of March and April 2009 and hence Samrudhi sourced vegetables from open market to meet the demand of the hotels. Since procuring vegetables from open market was against the concept of RT, Department of Tourism suggested stopping the supply of vegetables temporarily.

Though it was decided to resume the activities of Samrudhi after its closure in June 2009, competition from the markets in Tamil Nadu and lack of local production continued as threats. In December 2010 when it resumed its operation, arrangements were made for the availability of rice, wheat powder and pickles for supply through Samrudhi shop. This resumed operation also did not find much success.

9. Local awareness and involvement

In the absence of any major successful RT activities in Thekkady, the involvement of local community was not significant. It is understood that the people of Kumily are aware of the RT concepts. Because of environmentalists and social scientists,

Thekkady was attracting interventions to protect environment. The "green Kumily clean Kumily" was such a project that commenced before RT was launched. Because of all these, the people are aware of the benefits from tourism and the cost to the society.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM KERALA

Department of Tourism
Government of Kerala, Park View
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
India - 695 033
Keral Tourism
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