‘Why we need ostriches when children aren’t able to tell a horse from a cow’: how agrotourism develops in Tatarstan

‘Why we need ostriches when children aren’t able to tell a horse from a cow’: how agrotourism develops in Tatarstan
Photo: courtesy of Shamil Gafurov for realnoevremya.ru

The Russian Ministry of Agriculture finished receiving applications for a grant in Agrotourism. This year, Tatarstan has eight candidates for the state’s support of 3-10 million rubles. At the same time, the republic isn’t on the list of agricultural tourism sites. “Nobody keeps the record,” Realnoe Vremya was told in a regional agricultural tourism association. Read in our report what areas enthusiast entrepreneurs in Tatarstan want to develop.

“Why do we need ostriches?”

Shamil Gafurov is an entrepreneur from Bavly. He has been treating tourists from all parts of the republic and from different countries with national dishes baked in the oven. Guests from China, Italy, Poland and other parts of the world have already tasted his signature belesh, pot soup and Tatar homemade sausage. He is the head of the Gafurovs household.

When we contacted the entrepreneur, as an owner of an unusual restaurant where dishes are cook only in the oven, he was receiving tourists on recreational vehicles from all over the country who gathered in Bavly during those days. According to an initiative of head of the district Ilyas Guzairov, Arba-fest Russian auto tourism festival has been held in this area for the second year in a row. About 500 guests in 50 cars from Astrakhan, Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Ufa, Kazan, Perm, Tolyatti and other cities came here this year.

“We have been working this way for 15 years. Guests from different countries and cities come here. Rustam Minnikhanov visited us several years ago. He even pulled belesh out of the oven himself. We would like to continue developing national traditions and customs,” the host admitted.

Rustam Minnikhanov visited them several years ago. Photo courtesy of Shamil Gafurov for realnoevremya.ru

The Gafurovs family has seven children and seven grandchildren. Shamil Gafurov and his spouses have been dreaming of developing agrotourism in their district for a long time, they want to recreate a Tatar village in their area. They started its construction four years ago but cannot yet finish it. A lack of money is the main obstacle.

“We have already invested all our money in the construction. Now we hope for the state’s assistance. I have been trying to win a grant in Agrotourism programme for two years now, but I cannot win it. Here, ostrich breeders are given grants with pleasure, but I fail to understand why we need ostriches in our area. This bird is strange for us. It is much better to revive our own history,” says Shamil Gafurov.

Several areas can be developed in the Tatar village, the owner thinks. It is culinary tourism, ethnic tourism, agricultural tourism. Only one area is now developing successfully — culinary tourism. The local restaurant serves dishes baked only in the Tatar oven. Tourists come to taste national dishes: belesh, soups, homemade sausage, horsemeat sausage, oven bread. The hosts try to use show elements too — they offer a master class in oven bread baking and the mastery of taking pots, saucepans, bread and pies from the oven.

The local restaurant serves dishes baked only in the Tatar oven. Photo courtesy of Shamil Gafurov for realnoevremya.ru

Four years ago, Shamil Gafurov bought a land parcel eight kilometres far from Bavly, in Vasilyevka village. It is almost an abandoned village. About 10 households stay here during winter, in summer, people come here as a country house. The entrepreneur wants to revive the Tatar village for tourists in this parcel. Three guest houses in an old Tatar style have already been built. The house has sleeping platforms on the floor, there is a bed on the oven and other objects of the old Tatar home. Now a black banya is being built here. There is a café where guests will also be treated with oven dishes. The hosts plan to teach tourists to cook in the old way if they want.

“We want everything to be true, simple, familiar since childhood. We are going to use only ecological products, moreover, everything that can be found in nature. For instance, my spouse is very interested in different herbs. We plan to develop this area too. Everything is within a walking distance in our village. You leave the house, the forest, the lake, the horses are at hand. In a word, the heart is full of joy.”

There is a café where guests will also be treated with oven dishes. Photo courtesy of Shamil Gafurov for realnoevremya.ru

Fit-out works are underway in the guest houses now. Shamil Gafurov makes furniture himself. He decided to equip the houses in the old way. There are no beds inside, only a sleeping platform on the floor. Also, he created beds on the oven. Tourists are offered to sleep in the hayloft, go fishing, collect mushrooms and berries, listen to bird singing, swim and breath the countryside air, ride horses like in the past. After a hard day, horses used to be given time to rest, they cannot be given water and food immediately. Horses could eat and get energy at night. For this purpose, they used to be taken for grazing. The rural entrepreneur is sure that the demand for such holiday is very high.

“Guests come here and cry. They remember their childhood, their grandparents. Everybody wants to go back to those times, while we can provide such an opportunity. The demand for such a holiday is very big. Now I receive calls from all parts of the country and they ask when the construction of my complex is over,” the businessman said.

Shamil Gafurov complained that he cannot receive a grant to develop his rural tourism site. He has submitted the application twice, but no such luck:

“Here they’d rather support ostriches, not their Tatar village. It is necessary to develop our culture, breed horses, not exotic animals. We are about to finish the construction of the complex. A state grant would help us now very much. But official representatives cannot get to us. Then they say tourism doesn’t develop in Bavly. It would develop if it received some help. I don’t understand, to be honest. Perhaps, Tatarstan needs ostriches, of course, but I think it is much more important that our children not stop telling a horse from a cow.”

“Nobody keeps the record”

As it turned out, nobody keeps the record of households involved in agricultural tourism. Venera Adamovich, vice chair of the regional association for agricultural tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan who has been on this post for just a month, told us about this. Also, she is the executive director of the Russian Association of Glamp Sites.

“Last year, the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism voiced a number that Tatarstan had about 70 agricultural tourism sites. However, this is a guesstimate. There is no record. It isn’t kept. Perhaps, the Ministry of Agriculture itself will start keeping it, but it is necessary to understand that it will focus only on farms. While agricultural tourism is a wider concept. There are agricultural mansions, but not within agriculture. There are horse yards, guest houses in the countryside, they are also agricultural tourism sites,” said Adamovich.

According to the vice chair of the association, there is no resource to be able to get acquainted with rural tourism sites. There are several platforms that started dealing with it.

“There is a resource Ours Out in the Country. Farms from all Russia can post information about their offers there: routes, master classes, tasting events and so on. daybyday.tatar platform is actively developing. It operates under the aegis of the Directorate for the Development of Territories and Ecotourism. It is a subdivision of the Institute of Development of Tatarstan Cities,” Adamovich explained. As she admitted, even the rural tourism association doesn’t have the full idea of the number of agirucultural tourism sites and rural tourism in Tatarstan in general.

“The organisation was created in 2015. The previous chair went to live abroad. Now the association is recovering again. Our goal is to upgrade this activity and create a resource where all rural tourism sites can be placed. We think we shouldn’t create a new resource, we should use existing sites,” the representative of the association expressed her confidence.

Now the association includes 15-20 members, said Adamovich.

Guest and prefab houses, banya and apiary houses — what entrepreneurs want to spend the grant on

Eight people have applied for the grant in agrotourism from the Republic of Tatarstan this year, the total value of their projects is 112.133 million rubles, the grant amounts to 83.970 million rubles. The Competence Centre for the Development of Agricultural Cooperation in Tatarstan provided this data. Applicants from Zelenodolsk, Kukmor, Chistopol, Kamskoye Ustye, Laishevo, Mamadysh district want to get the state support from 3 to 10 million rubles. Moreover, the latter submitted three projects at once.

For instance, Zelenodolsk District submitted Priboy rural tourism development project. It envisages installing a tent for mass events and two additional houses, one of which will be equipped for comfortable accommodation of people with disabilities. Visitors will be able to feed animals, participate in cheese making master classes and training quests immersing one into the intricacies of the art of farming where one will be taught how to distinguish cheese types and define its quality, shown the full cycle of how milk turns into cheese.

Visitors will be able to feed animals, participate in cheese making master classes and training quests. Photo: realnoevremya.ru

Kukmor District wants to implement the project Agrarian Kukmor First-Hand: First Tourism Cooperation Cluster of Small Farms. With the help of the grant, people here plan to develop tourist routes, create infrastructure for tourists, develop culinary tourism on the territory of the main village by opening Summit farmer’s restaurant with an individual concept and national colour.

The applicant from Chistopol District develops an existing KamRay eco- and agro-tourism complex with a vineyard on an area of 1.5ha, apiary, a fishing area. The farm plans to continue developing with the grant’s money, it plans spend the money to buy prefab houses and improve the territory.

The renowned hotel Kama Trophy is also a candidate for state support. It keeps 30 goats, plants greens.

Kama Trophy keeps 30 goats. Photo: realnoevremya.ru

A project from Laishevo District submitted a project involved in husbandry, grains and pulses, annual and perennial herbs. It plans to develop a new area with the help of the grant — rural tourism.

Mamadysh District has been the most active applicant this year. Three projects at once claim the state’s money. The first one is a farm with Tatar hospitality. Now the household has the Farmer’s House with a meat processing shop, a restaurant on the first floor and a hotel on the second. They want to organise weekend tours. The project envisages engineering infrastructure, land improvement, a banya complex, swimming pool, ATVs, snow tractors, children’s playground, swings.

The second project is offered by Oluyaz with Salmon and Honey Colour holiday resort. It also wants to develop agrotourism at the farm — to start receiving tourists and accommodating them in the countryside. The project envisages buying prefab houses, prefab banya, apiary houses, terraces, a summer house, land improvement.

The third project from Mamadysh District is the creation of an agrotourist complex Alan. It is planned to build a guest house in Alan village for family tourists as well as artists, open children’s attractions, organise summer fishing and sports equipment rental.

This year, almost all the applicants hope to get 10 million rubles of the grant from the state.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova

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