Untravel Weekends: Our Native Village

Our Native Village is a shining example to state that a sustainable resort is a guarantee of success in tourism, not a cost to compromise.


Our Native Village is a shining example to state that a sustainable resort is a guarantee of success in tourism, not a cost to compromise. 

Rural tourism is quite the buzz in a developing country like India. While the very term has a halo of simplicity to it, the many options accessible today to see the vast farmlands, green covered hills or fields of golden wheat is anything but humble.

Travellers and tourists are invited into the exotic without worrying about leaving the western comforts of air conditioning, geysers and chlorine infested Jacuzzis. Needless to say, bringing international standards to undiscovered locales leaves an enormous carbon footprint, pressurizes the limited natural resources and alienates the local livelihood and culture from its day-to-day existence.

Our Native Village sticks by its name and claim of being a rural, eco friendly resort to every inch and arm of the estate. A lifelong dream of C.B. Ramkumar and Lalitha Ramkumar, Our Native Village was born out of the desire to come home post their 17 year stint abroad. The Ramkumars share their story of bringing sustainable tourism back to the native.

"Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction'"- E.O.Wilson

A lifelong dream of C.B. Ramkumar and Lalitha Ramkumar, Our Native Village was born out of the desire to come home after living abroad for years.

Q. Can you share your story of setting up Our Native Village? 

We bought the land that Our Native Village is built on 22 years ago, where we have been farming and continue to do so. As we started farming, we suffered the paucity of the land – water – not that we did not have enough ground water, but we did not have electricity to pump the water up! We noticed the abject poverty amongst some of the small farmers which was heart wrenching. And in one such moment, I made a promise to myself that I will find a 360 degree self sustaining model for us in the urban and rural space. Our Native Village is a manifestation of this promise.

We had always nurtured the idea of a little village inn or a village pub – something to do when we retired! We were outside the country for 17 years, we always wanted to come back home, so we planned Our Native Village and we came back home with it. Initially we had planned 6 little huts behind our farm house. But the idea became bigger and bigger and we have now a 24 room 100% eco resort!

The idea behind starting ONV was to go back in time and relive the purity of the native way of life. It is about the love of the simple things that we city slickers miss out on. It is about reviving anything that is precious, but is now lost. It is about simplicity. It is about realizing the value of pausing once in a while, so that we can reconnect with ourselves and bond with people close to us – our parents, friends, spouse and children. A place to touch base with things we like doing; like reading a book, getting a massage, listening to the sound of the wind, smiling at butterflies, or by just doing nothing at all.

The Lily in the Pond - One of the many simple things we, city slickers miss out on.

The Lily in the Pond – One of the many simple things we, city slickers miss out on.

Q.  What are the 5 aspects of responsible travel you have worked on and what did  it take to implement them?

Environmental sustainability

We set our self the target that in all 5 aspects of infrastructure – energy, water, waste, architecture and the food chain, we will be sustainable.

As of now, we generate over 55% of our electricity using a wind mill, and solar panels. Rain water is harvested and stored in an 84,000 liter underground tank for reuse.  All the waste is processed and reused accordingly.  Every brick with which the retreat was built was made on the site and sun dried instead of kiln fired.  Most of the vegetables used in the restaurant are from the 12 acre organic farm that the retreat is on.

We also have India’s first pondstyle fully natural swimming pool, a technology imported from Austria where there are no chemicals used in cleansing, but uses the roots of aquatic plants to ‘eat’ up all the ‘dirt’ from the pool, oxygenate the water and help maintain hygiene. These plants are around the pool in an area called the regeneration pool.

High ceilings with natural light and ventilation allow the rooms to stay airy. All the materials used for bedding and blinds are made of 100 per cent pure cotton and silk. In the bathrooms, you will find a mixture of materials used such as wood, stone, tiles and ceramic just to keep the look and feel of the place different. All soaps and shampoos are natural and organic and made exclusively for the retreat.

India’s first pond-style fully natural swimming pool:Beautiful and Sustainable together

India’s first pond-style fully natural swimming pool: Beautiful and Sustainable together

Human resources

We employ a lot of staff from the villages around us. Our local staff compriaround 60% of our total staff. We have in house skill development programme, which has resulted in some of the local village staff who joined as pot washers becoming waiters in the restaurant.

Learning programmes

We have developed a robust learning programme both inside our resort and outside. We have notices inside every room that explains all aspects of sustainability to guests to sensitize them to the environment. We also have a formal learning programme which we impart to school students. It is a programme called Enriching Lives. We also have a learning programme for the hospitality professionals called GASP – Guidelines for Applying Sustainable Practices. The following link will give you more details of these programmes: http://www.ournativevillage.com/learning.htm

Preserving and promoting indigenous art/culture/craft

At Our Native Village we are reviving and preserving aspects of art, culture and craft. We are reviving interest in 6 forms of Indian art in the form of wall murals. We had a team of 6 tribal rural artists who came in from all parts of India and painted these huge wall murals on the walls of our rooms. Some of the art forms are in danger of becoming extinct. From a cultural perspective, we are reviving interest in Veerakallus. These are hero stones, stones that are records of battles of the past. We picked 6 prominent Veerakallus and replicated them with permission from the archeological department and installed them in our resort in the form of a rock garden. We are also preserving games, practices and rituals from Indian villages. We feature cultural performing art forms like the ‘Hari Kathe’ which no one patronizes now, because of its lack of popular support.

Preserving biodiversity

In partnership with FRLHT (Foundation for the revival of local health traditions) we are preserving more than 50 herbal medicinal plants in our resort as part of our landscaping. We only plant ethnic species of plants in our resort. We are also part of the movement to preserve the open grasslands that lead up to our resort. These are the last remaining open grasslands of Bangalore and it is a wintering ground for migratory birds of prey. We recently played a prominent role along with our fellow residents of the area in stopping the Government from planting trees in the open grassland, and impressed on the authorities the importance of grasslands in the ecology of the region.

Q. What has been the impact of your venture on the locals, environment, travelers and the place?

We have energized the area we are in. From being a sleepy place with absolutely no economic activity in terms of farming, we have prompted people around us to start some activity. We are part of the revival programme for the Arkavathy River – the only source of water for the Hessarghatta Lake that is now dry.

But our biggest impact has been within the hospitality industry. Our sustainable practices have never been attempted in the past in this business, and through our recognition and awards, we have managed to raise their awareness. Now they know that it is possible to be sustainable – something that was deemed impossible until we set up our resort.

It does not get more rustic than milking a cow!

It does not get more rustic than milking a cow!

Q. Can you share experiences/anecdotes from travelers who’ve visited?

When we set up, we knew clearly that guests know very little about sustainability, and that we need to educate them at every given opportunity. But we were not prepared when one of those guests who entered our resort and looked around at our unplastered visible brick walls and asked us when will we complete the construction. Our hearts broke but we recovered and explained the architecture (clay bricks) although I am not sure if the guest was impressed!

Photos: From the official website http://www.ournativevillage.com/

Contact: +91 80 41140909

Untravel Weekends is a feature series on resorts, homestays and guesthouses that are built and run on the foundations of responsible travel by means of nature conservation, using alternative energy, reducing waste, recycling, rain water harvesting, organic farming, sourcing and feeding into the local economy or promoting indigenous cultures.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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