Jacqui Taylor, Africa’s agritourism pioneer and rural hero
Writer: Duncan Masiwa, News Editor, Food for Mzansi
One glimpse into the life of Jacqui Taylor – a woman, devoted to the empowerment of rural communities in South Africa and Africa, and one can understand why she’s considered a pioneer in her field.
As the founder and managing director of Agritourism Africa, Jacqui has succeeded in successfully building the blueprint for rural and agritourism in Africa. The world’s second-largest continent.
Her company, the only initiative of its kind in Africa is the link between interested tourists and all the role players in Agritourism.
It serves as an information hub highlighting tourism experiences on farms across Africa. This allows local and international tourists to incorporate visits to these farms as part of their travel plans.
In several corners of the African continent, Jacqui is considered a rural hero. It is a monumental responsibility she executes without any support from government. An unfortunate truth, that often gives rise to admiration from spectators in countries around the world who are left stunned by her survival.
To Jacqui, Agritourism is low hanging-fruit for the rural communities and farmers.
Her dream is to have a network of routes throughout Africa to enable tourists and visitors to appreciate the tranquillity, spirituality, and beauty of rural Africa. A story, Jacqui believes is yet to be told about Africa.
“We need to change perceptions as the only news featured on international news channels is negative and biased,” Jacqui states.
“Africa has a richness of diversity, cultural heritage and beautiful scenery. Agritourism Africa is inclusive, 100% African and proudly so.”
A forerunner of agritourism in Africa
Jacqui started her journey in September 2016 when she created an internet hub highlighting tourism farm experiences across South Africa. The idea was sparked when a journalist asked her if she could recommend a farm stay where he could meet the farmer.
Jacqui could not find any website to answer his question, so instead created one.
And today, she is an award-winning agritourism leader and well sought-after speaker.
She recently received international recognition for creating sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities through agritourism in South Africa. An achievement that put South Africa on the map and on the minds of major role players in the global Agritourism arena.
Considering this, it is understandable why in her world, no two days could ever be the same. From requests to speak at international conferences about sustainability and entrepreneurship in agritourism, to visiting farmers and rural communities, where she facilitates opportunities to enable rural entrepreneurship through tourism.
However, since the dawn of the global Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of what Jacqui does has had to move online. Now days she’s caught up in one zoom meeting after the other, having discussions with farmers and Agritourism associations.
But this African superwoman doesn’t mind.
“It is an opportunity for me to share positive news from South Africa. South Africa is a magnificent country with so much to offer. And I spend time educating the tourism trade and consumers,” Jacqui points out.
With over 30 years of communications and marketing experience in the agricultural and tourism industries, both nationally and internationally, Jacqui has succeeded in developing domestic and international marketing strategies for several destinations.
Through her worldwide travel experience, she has developed a wide and varied contact list of key players in the tourism and agricultural industry which has benefited her agritourism operation.
Scope in Agritourism is wide
What inspires Jacqui to work with people – women and youth especially – in overlooked, off the grid areas of Africa, is her innate desire to revitalize troubled rural communities and create employment.
Being the daughter of a farm manager and having lived and worked in rural areas, Jacqui is intimately aware of the concerns and economic restraints in small town communities.
“I hated boarding school as I was used to working with my parents on the farm. I have always been proudly all things rural, and conservation orientated. Ever since I was a child, a walk in nature or on a farm inspired me. Being ‘grounded’ meant taking my shoes off and walking barefoot on the earth. Farmers are a great leveller in society,” Jacqui explains.
Working in rural communities to encourage opportunities – whether on a farm or an Agritourism route – Jacqui does not view what she does as being a job, but rather a calling.
“I do not want the youth to leave rural areas to live in urban environments where they struggle to find work and live in appalling conditions. There should also be employment opportunities available to women so they can supplement their family’s income. Farming may not interest the youth, but the scope to be entrepreneurial in the tourism field in rural areas, is wide,” Jacqui says.
Poverty, she adds, remains an area of concern for her. It is an issue which she believes must be addressed by all South Africans by working together.
“We need action plans, not obscure strategies. I enjoy liaising with farmers and listening to their stories on agriculture in its many forms. There stories need to be told”.
The needs of Africa
Setting the standard for rural and agritourism in Africa has not been a walk in the park. However, Jacqui believes that her years’ worth of experience help shaped her understanding of agritourism and the needs of this industry in Africa.
“So much needs to be done to remove the red tape to enable the entrepreneurial youth and women to create successful businesses. Tourism must change to benefit all, not just the big boys who dominate the industry,” cautions Jacqui.
According to Jacqui, a major challenge in Africa’s agritourism landscape now is, a lack of support from the tourism and agricultural industries.
Jacqui feels that unless these two industries truly do want to understand the dynamics and contribute from the heart, Agritourism will forever remain a challenge in Africa. “There’s too much politics and egos involved in both tourism and agricultural industries. Working in ‘silos’ is history, working together is the way forward” she points out.
The only thing that will strengthen the agritourism sector in Africa, is collaboration between all organisations and all departments, Jacqui believes.
“Agritourism should benefit all, not just the wine and canapé crowd…we are talking about rural development that improves the lives of not just farmers and farmworkers but also women and children.”
While her passions incorporate rural tourism, agriculture, conservation, ecotourism, cultural diversity, human rights and sustainable agritourism initiatives, Jacqui has a long list of other interests and responsibilities.
She works as an International Advisory member for Yonder, the IWA Marketing Committee (Vermont). EURAC and several other Associations. Jacqui says “A Day is never long enough as there is so much that needs to be done but I am grateful to have a friend called “adrenalin” which drives me. I have never experienced boredom”.
Jacqui is grateful for the support and love of her close friends around the world which she has met on her work assignments in Europe, America, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Japan, China, Australia, and New Zealand.
Jacqui’s support team includes her beloved pets, her parents, and her colleagues. She sums up her life philosophy and says “I am passionate about all things rural. Quite simply, it is my life, and I would not want to swop it for anything else in the world. I am happy.”
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