|The early morning view outside Desia Cottage|
Tucked in the foothills of Eastern Ghats, Desia is a slice of serenity. Surrounded by lush forests, waterfalls and a river, it is located in Bantalabiri village near Macchkund, one of the most remote corners of Koraput district. The hospitality offered by local tribals, though, makes the long journey worthwhile. They not only maintain the Desia cottage, but also conduct nature walks, cook up delicious tribal food and work as expert guides.
|The Desia Cottage in Bantalabari Village|
The objective of Desia, Kar says, is to highlight the rich cultural heritage and flora and fauna of the region among travelers who believe in responsible travel and at the same time inspire local youths to preserve their heritage and environment. The project that was started two years back, has been providing a sustainable source of income to villagers who are also traditional paddy cultivators. Paddy, though, has not been giving them good returns of late due to changing weather pattern and procurement issues.
|Tribal musicians from Bantalbari village|
|The Duduma Waterfall|
|A porch that opens up to sights of mustard fields and hills|
After the Desia cottage was ready, five girls and three boys of Bantalbiri village underwent hospitality and business training under the Government sponsored ‘Hunar Se Rozgar’ at Puri. Currently, six men and as many women run every aspect of Desia, except for marketing which is being done by Kar. The project also offers indirect employment to around a 100 other villagers, which includes folk artistes to vegetable farmers. While a majority of the profit share from the project is shared between villagers, some amount is kept for maintenance of the cottage. A Desia Tourism Society has been formed with village heads, elected representatives and Government officials as members, who oversee functioning of the project.
In future, Kar wants to start a pre-school up to primary level designed on the lines of Awake and Shine School by Rtd General Singh in Kalimpong for children in Bantalbiri and provide skill development training to women of the village in jewellery and pickle making. In fact, construction of the pre-school has already started within Desia campus.
An edited version of this story was published by The New Indian Express.