Waking up Agricultural Tourism Potential in An Giang

10:48:11 PM | 1/5/2012

Agricultural tourism is a relatively new tourism form being invested for development in An Giang province. Initial results are very encouraging. This potential tourism form not only efficiently exploits local advantages (tourism and agriculture) but also creates a new source of income for farmers, stimulates the diversity of economic activities in rural areas, and brings in real benefits to farmers.
To exploit agricultural tourism potential in An Giang province, the Dutch Farmers Organization (Agriterra) - through the Vietnam Farmers Association - carried out the agricultural tourism development project in the first phase in Lao Cai, Tien Giang and An Giang provinces from 2007 to 2009. On this basis, the An Giang Farmers Association built agricultural tourism sites in My Hoa Hung commune (Long Xuyen City), Tan Trung commune (Phu Tan district) and Van Giao commune (Tinh Bien district). Each commune has 10-15 farming households involved in tourism development.
Services include homestay, country cuisine, rowing, Tra Su forest sightseeing and discovery, and fishing. These events catch the interest of tourists far and wide. When the first phase of the project ended, most of Agriterra experts rated activities in An Giang province the highest. The project created a useful socioeconomic development model and helped local farmers with a new source of income. Since the project was carried out, the monthly income of a participating household rose from VND2 million to VND10 - 15 million.
After the first phase ended, Agriterra is continuing with the second phase of the agricultural tourism development project. It will be completed in three years, from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014. The EUR676,400 project, including EUR328,000 from Agriterra, aims to build an agricultural tourism development centre inside the An Giang Farmers Association, support and facilitate members’ agricultural tourism activities, and increase incomes and jobs for farmers in the project area. The project will establish an agricultural tourism system where farmers perform coordinating and regulatory roles.
The project will also spend VND3 billion on farmer training courses, VND1.5 billion to support farmers, VND2 billion for tourism product improvement, and VND2 billion for waste treatment and sign and guidance. Participating localities will have a counterpart fund to support. Farmers will be provided money to build houses, toilets and kitchens. Tourists can sleep at farmers’ homes or at hotels. Agricultural tourism is unique in its preservation of the local cultural identity. The An Giang Farmers Association collaborated with farmers to develop tourism in their houses without disrupting their daily activities. The advantage of this tourism model is that farmers can join tourism development while continuing farming and improving their livelihood. To prevent irrational pricing, An Giang province decided to set up a cooperative team in each commune in accordance with Government Decree 151/2007/ND-CP. This team will frequently check business licences and income taxes of farming households involved in tourism development.
Up to now, 15 out of 156 communes, wards and townships in the province were chosen to take part in agricultural tourism development featuring landscapes and historical relics. For example, in My Hoa Hung commune, Long Xuyen City where there are a famous President Ton Duc Thang Monument and orchards, visitors will enjoy the water world on the Hau River; hunt for bitter snails; harvest crops and fruits; dredge canals, cast fish nets and catch fish; participate in folk games; see fishermen catch and process fish, and enjoy fish fresh from the Hau River. Each commune has 5 - 10 households participating in the project and the number of households benefiting directly from the project may reach 75-100 households.
To maintain project sustainability, further improve the efficiency of the agricultural tourism model, and form active supporting sources for farmers in the next phase, on February 14, An Giang Province established the An Giang Tourist Farmers Centre to develop special tourism forms like community tourism, countryside tourism, eco-tourism, village tourism, sports tourism, waterway tourism, and culinary tourism. The centre functions as a bridge that links tourists with farmers, promotes agricultural tourism, legally represents farmers, facilitates farmers’ mutual cooperation, trains farmers, manages quality, supervises the construction of agricultural tourism plans, and prevents unfair competition.
Mr Nguyen Thanh Tung, Director of An Giang Tourist Farmers Centre, said: The agricultural tourism development project has given a facelift to the countryside of An Giang province. Agricultural products are improved and farmers are professionally trained. Especially, the number of tourists visiting An Giang in the form of agricultural tourism has increased significantly. The agricultural tourism sector of An Giang province served over 1,000 visitors in 2008, 2,000 tourists in 2009, 4,000 people in 2010, 7,000 visits in 2011 and over 3,000 visitors in the first months of 2012. Agricultural tourism is not only an effective marketing channel to bring the image of An Giang history, culture and waterways to domestic and foreign tourists, but also increases incomes for farmers and sustainably changes the face of rural areas.
My Chau