Ex Sesa Sterlite employee Mahesh Patil has made a career switch from mining to agro-tourism, reports Shoma PatnaikEx employee of Sesa Serlite, Mahesh Patil is a known face in mining circles. In charge of environmental management and CSR he was responsible for several sustainable mining initiatives of the company like restoration of dumps, minimising the ecological damages of mining and understanding problems of villagers through community interactions, etc.
With mining closed and unlikely to restart at the same level as before Patil decided to move on. Coming from an agriculture background he is started an agro-tourism venture NV Eco Farms that is recently opened up for visitors. The project located at his family farm- cum- home in Kirpal, Dhabal, Dharbandora taluka is in the Codli mining belt of Goa.
Spread across 70 acres of agricultural land the project is eco-tourism at its best and just what tourism experts are recommending for Goa. Seventy acres is a large space and if you want perspective, the area is the size of the upcoming IT Habitat in Chimbel. A good thing about it is the varied terrain that includes a stone quarry, a water body and untamed wilderness. All topography is being utilised to give tourists a deep insight into attractiveness of hinterland village life.
Between trees and across the stream the project includes facilities for adventure and regular tourism such as spice garden, an astral Nakshatra garden, etc. Adventure tourism has wall climbing, rapelling, zip line, a Burma bridge, Commando bridge and Monking bridge. Doing the circuit of activities by whooshing down a cable line or crossing a rope way over water is an exhilarating experience. Most eco farms in Goa shut down during the monsoons but his farm comes alive in the rains, a visit reveals.
The perennial steam that runs through the property is in spate and visitors get to swim in the natural swimming pool and enjoy mini-waterfalls in the property.
The agro-tourism project is the best way to keep his family home alive, continues Patil. Running the farm viably was difficult thanks to working. The project he adds will enable him to continue with agriculture as well as give back to the locals who are hard pressed for employment after mining closure.
He is invested about Rs one crore in the project so far and most of the expenditure is importing equipment from France and constructing a restaurant on the premises. Capital expenditure is ongoing as construction of cottages and yoga centre is on cards. A professional himself, Patil is decided to rope in experts for advisory. The specialist for adventure activities is Prasad Joshi, consultant Taj Hotels while design, planning of wooden cottages, lay-out of land is by architect Yogesh Pednekar.
The project continues Patil still has lot of work for overnight tourist but it is recently opened to day-trippers. Only thing they have to inform in advance so that the restaurant where fare is fresh, home-cooked and traditional has fresh produce. The farm he continues is ideal for city slickers who want to unwind in the interiors during the week-end. However long term it is being targeted at the serious nature lover thanks to the abundance of trees and bird life. Mornings he adds is a haven for nature lovers as plenty of wild birds are spotted such as variety of wood peckers, wild pigeons, magpies and tree-pie’s. Many times he spots exotic looking birds but has no time to check out the names.
Diverting his family Kulagor into tourism does not dilute its interest in agriculture because he is expanded agricultural activities since the project is initiated. A poly-house is built in the premises where vegetables are grown and the produce is for the Goa Horticulture outlets. Agriculture says Patil despite the best efforts of a progressive famer is a tough activity because returns are low due to marketing problems faced by a farmer. Moreover subsidies given by the government for a new farmer helps in starting but continuing is difficult. As for an seasoned farmer their problems are numerous too, he says.
His farm says Patil grows bannans, coconuts, papaya along with other fruits and spices all of which cannot be sold to the Goa Horticulture Corporation. So he will be soon getting into retail selling and is opening a shop in St Inez, Panjim.
Patil does not want the venture to become a run-of-the mill spice farm where bus loads of tourist drop by for a walk around the place before heading to restaurant for a Goan meal. His restaurant will never serve hard drinks and will not be in the tourist taxi circuit. He wants guests to spend time constructively. While energetic guests can do the adventure activities others can experience real farm life by helping in plucking of fruit, light farming work, he says.
NV Farms does its own rain water harvesting with several wells dug around the place (some previous and some new). It is ecologically sustaining because it is on traditional farming lines where trees are complimentary to each other and bandharas conserve rain water. It is the only way to do tourism says Patil because Goa is small and needs to be safeguarded for future Goans.