Venturing Into The Rural Heartland Of Africa
Tourists are looking for a unique experience in Africa that they have not had elsewhere. We have a story to tell and the world wants to hear it, see it and experience it through Agritourism, which allows visitors to have experiential holidays with local farmers and rural communities.
Apart from the indigenous crops which provide tourists with educational food experiences, a tourist can explore the rich diversity of crops, livestock, game and natural agricultural environments that are unique in the world. More importantly, are the people who farm and who live in these rural communities. In Africa there are over 3000 tribes who speak a variety of dialects on a continent who has 20% of the land area in the world. There are cultural, historical and activities that are uniquely African.
Rural Tourism Africa works with farmers and rural communities to enable them to diversify and earn additional income through Agritourism. It is not a booking site. We have an information platform, where we list some of the farmers we work with – www.agritourismafrica.com – to enable tourists and visitors to access real farm experiences on working farms. The latter is important, because visitors want to meet the farmer and learn about the type of farming. The information platform also lists informative articles that have been written about Agritourism.
So what type of farm experiences can you as a visitor choose from – Game Breeding Farms, Fynbos Estates, Mountain Biking Accommodation, Abalone Farms, Hiking Trails, working with the farmer as he goes about his daily activities, Tilapia Farming, Living with the San, Ostrich farming …. the list is endless as the variety of crops – from poultry, maize/corn, indigenous cattle (Nguni), wheat, milk, deciduous fruit, vegetables, citrus, indigenous goats (Kalahari), sub-tropical fruit, indigenous sheep and that is not even 18% of the variety of crops and animals that are farmed in Africa.
Agritourism on a working farm cannot be separated from the farmer. He/She is part of the Farm’s Marketing Brand. An example that immediately comes to mind, is the Skeiding Guest Farm owned by Neels and Anne-Lize Uys.
Skeiding Farm is near Heidelberg in the Western Cape. Guests are involved as far as possible in the workings of the 1200 hectare family farm, which include the following animals and crops: Ostriches, Merino sheep, Nguni cattle, Canola, Wheat, Barley and Peas. In other words, a variety of activities. In their own words “Neels is the farmer, socialiser, “braaier” and farm tour guide, and Anne-Lize is the baker, jam maker and money taker”. Guests get up early to join Neels in his daily farming activities, then come back to have a farm breakfast cooked by Anne-Lize. Neels grew up in that area, so he is a walking encyclopaedia of local information. Most of his visitors are from Europe, who want to learn about Ostriches. There are 15 different activities on the farm, apart from the farm tours and Anne-Lize has coordinated several itineraries for day trips so guests can explore the area. The farm is easy to find with the GPS coordinates and is well sign posted. The farm is ideal for families with children as they can actively exercise in a safe environment.
Other examples include the biodiversity paradise of Verlorenkloof with its pristine waterfalls on the farm. Educational day trips on farms can include participation in the various Agricultural routes for example, the Cederberg Heritage Route, the Rooibos Route, the Herold Meander Route…all offer unique experiences.
Throughout Africa, there are a multitude of Agritourism experiences, for example, in Kenya, there are coffee routes, tea routes, wine routes and accommodation in magnificent locations.
What should an Agritourist do before embarking on an Agritourism experience? The visitor should do research/reading so one can decide what type of Agritourism experience one would like. Remember the distances in Africa are vast, so plan your daily trip so you know how long the drive is to the next farm. A few pointers to consider when driving through rural areas: 1) always ask permission before taking a photograph, 2) do not give money to beggars, rather give money to the NPO in the area that has a program to address social-economic issues, 3) consider cultural norms and 4) please pre-arrange visits to farms.
Africa is blessed with its diversity and is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations according to the World Bank. Please do not hesitate to see some of the farms on You Tube: Agritourism South Africa or the Face Book Page: Agritourism South Africa. You are welcome to contact us should you have any questions as we are the only officially recognised Agritourism NPO in this stunning part of the world.
Wamelwa e-Afrika! Welcome to Africa!
Written by Jacqui Taylor.