Bamboo resorts improve lives of locals

ISLAMABAD: Farming for tourism is a unique idea as it not only provides socioeconomic benefits but also adds beauty to a country’s landscape.
Dr Ayesha Shaukat, the owner and chief executive officer of Rana Hunting and Luxury Resort (RHLR) at Head Balloki in Kasur district of Punjab, informed WealthPK that her father, Rana Shaukat Mahmood, was actively engaged in bamboo farming, as he cultivated bamboo for environmental and animal conservation. “My father turned this farm into a resort for the socioeconomic uplift of the people living in the vicinity.”
She said her family planned to start a bamboo-based cottage industry in the near future to help people, especially women, learn multiple crafts, and prepare food items and other valuables from bamboo. “I want to carry on my father’s mission of empowering people socially and economically.”
She said RHLR had become a recreation and socio-economic development hotspot now.
Talking to WealthPK, RHLR farm manager Farhan Mahmood said their bamboo plantation was started in 2006. “The farm is a vast clump of millions of Bangladeshi bamboos, spanning over an area of 7,623,000 square-foot. It was created as an agri-tourism place and a bamboo conservation area. A great number of deer roam freely in it. All the shelters, furnishing, sitting areas, and restaurants here are made out of bamboo. About 2,000 people visit the farm daily by paying Rs250. Meeting halls have also been set up with a well-equipped conference hall. A fascinating bamboo marquee and open-air meeting places have also been established.”
Mahmood said that 21 bamboo residences had also been constructed in the park to give the visitors joy of jungle adventure. “Different bamboo structures, including jungle gala, paradise, and hanging beds present an atmospheric residential novelty,” he said. “This is a unique and successful example of an agri-tourism business.”
He said though deer hunting was legal, they never allowed such an activity. “We love to keep animals here as the area houses about 450 different imported deer varieties, like black buck, spotted deer, hog deer, etc. A few other animals are also housed like blue cow, ostrich, pheasant, urial, etc.” Mahmood also shared that more than 100 people managed the bamboo farm. “A good number of people also earn a living by running their own small-scale businesses like tuck-shops, food stalls, animal cart driving, amusement activities, and swinging platforms for children. The farm management never charges them any fees.”
Firdaus, who is running a souvenir shop in RHLR, told WealthPK that she had been in the business for four years. “I am a single parent with three children. I am earning a decent livelihood here. I never pay any part of my income or rent to the farm management, which also helps me cope with my other social and domestic responsibilities like providing quality education to my children and dealing with health matters.”
Muhammad Saleem is running a small tuck-shop in RHLR. He told WealthPK that he had been in the business for more than a decade. “I am earning a handsome living for my family.”
Abdul Jabbar, who operates a tonga, said he had been running his horse carriage for 13 years. “Farm management does not charge me any fee. I manage to earn a handsome income to not only run my house but also provide good education to my children.”