September 27, 2017

Jungle Lodges and Resorts - Ongoing experiment on Ecotourism

Tourism can aid in supporting livelihood generation for the local community and JLR over the past thirty years has strived to achieve this social goal. At Jungle Lodges and Resorts, community participation has been the norm ever since the first resort was set up. A majority of employees are from neighbouring villages, mostly within the same taluk or district. At Kabini and in the newer resorts of JLR, perhaps the single biggest action of distinction is the employment of local villagers as the custodian of day to day working of the resorts. More than 95 percent of all employees employed at Kabini are from the neighbouring villages, with 37% of from the nearest Karapura village. Following the same trend are the Cauvery Fishing Camps with more than 75% of the staff from the adjoining villages of Shimsa, Bluff, Dallankante and Muttathi.

JLR resorts have been set up in regions that are traditionally backward on social development indices. Each location of JLR has spawned multifaceted benefits and helped that particular region develop socially and economically. Most residents were engaged either on collection of forest produce or rainfed farming. This dependence on farming for income made them highly vulnerable to debts and the resulting poverty cycle. It may well be difficult to imagine that rural woodcutter form the neighbouring village in any other role, besides what they have been practicing over the past centuries. But to see the same villager, cut off from the world, earning a livelihood just a few hundred metres from the house and being proud of the contribution they have made to tourism, especially wildlife is a matter of pride.

Education for children has taken off in a big way. The auxiliary benefits have trickled down not just for employees but also for locals benefitting in the form of the business offered by such an initiative. The diversification and availability of alternate economic options locally has helped shield farmers, who were hitherto prone to the vagaries of nature, while reducing the vulnerability resulting from pure dependence on farming or collections from the forest.

The improvement in the quality of life of our staff is a major contribution of JLR as an institution. Virtually every staff of JLR, more than 600 of them now send their children for higher education in various towns and taluk headquarters. The positive social change on their lives can be now witnessed after several years of operation as the first generation of staff would testify. The young generation has progressed, establishing themselves in economically beneficial opportunities, while several have joined organizations in posts that their fathers could never have hoped to achieve after years of service, on virtue of their education and skill enhancement. Bringing about this miniscule yet significant change in the lives of the people has perhaps been the single largest contribution of JLR in the past 30 years and counting still.