Agri-tourism in peri-urban Mumbai and Pune: ecological citizenship and rural-urban linkages in the Global South

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Madan, Rohit
  • Subject: GE

Post structuralist research is increasingly influencing environmental knowledge – feminist/post-colonial authors have led the path for incorporating subjective and lived experiences of human-nature interactions into environmental discourses. In India's southern context, however, environmental literature, policy and governance are still dominated by structuralist discourses; hence wider environmental knowledge and governance remain detached from everyday life. Using a theoretical framework of "sustainable development" and "ecological citizenship", this PhD aims to rectify this literature gap through a qualitative analysis of agri-tourism in Maharashtra. Within peri-urban Mumbai and Pune, industrialization and urbanization are transforming the agrarian landscape. Although urbanization is displacing farmers from cultivation, it is also creating new opportunities through markets, education, employment and connectivity. These contribute to agriculture's transformation into serving multiple roles beyond food production – towards higher levels of multifunctionality.\ud Agri-tourism is a form of agricultural multifunctionality. Farm owners provide urban visitors with accommodation, activities and entertainment on their privately owned farms. As a rural service, agri-tourism provides urban visitors a flavour of rural life and culture through recreation, farming activities and rural products. While revenue and jobs are created, there are also new opportunities for rural and urban interactions and environmental learning. Even though the news-media often portrays agri-tourism as "sustainable" and a low impact alternative to mainstream tourism, these claims have not been tested on the ground.\ud Through fieldwork in three agri-tourism farms, this research unpacks how sustainability is interpreted in agri-tourism. It analyses how agri-tourism stakeholders (farm owners, urban visitors, employees and villagers) perceive notions of environmental responsibility and entitlements in the farm. Using narratives from over eighty semi-structured interviews, the analysis draws wider connections with neo-liberal policies in India. The study concludes that the most significant factor in shaping people's attitudes and values towards the environment is how they perceive "rurality" and "urbanization" in everyday life.
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